Dior Patchouli Imperial (La Collection Privée)

Patchouli Imperial is a crisp, aromatic, desiccated, very woody men’s cologne that is far from the patchouli soliflore that its name would imply. It starts off as a men’s fougère, before turning into a scent with faint ties to Guerlain‘s L’Instant Pour Homme and, to a much lesser extent, Habit Rouge. Eventually, it ends up as a dry woody fragrance with an ambered touch, but little character.

Source: Dior

Source: Dior

Patchouli Imperial is part of Dior’s prestige line of fragrances called La Collection Privée. (The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance, but I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website.) The eau de parfum was released in 2011, the creation of François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior. Dior describes the scent as follows:

Potent and sensual, Patchouli is an essential House of Dior ingredient that took up its place at the beginning of the New Look revolution in 1947.

Full of elegance, François Demachy’s composition, Patchouli Impérial, is a celebration of this legendary oriental ingredient with notes as sultry as they are sophisticated. “Patchouli is a major note, the most animal of all the plant notes. It is refined, revealing unprecedented elegance.”

Dior’s very limited — and I would argue, very incomplete — list of notes only mentions:

Russian Coriander, Indonesian Patchouli, Indian and New Caledonian sandalwood.

Source: Dior

Source: Dior

Fragrantica voters add in cedar, Sicilian mandarin, and Calabrian bergamot. I agree with them, but would also include some other things. What I smell is:

Lavender, Bergamot, Lime, Virginia Cedar, Russian Coriander, Indonesian Patchouli, Cocoa, Indian and New Caledonian/Australian sandalwood, and something ambered.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

Patchouli Imperial opens on my skin with cologne and fougère traits of lavender, bitter lime, bitter dried orange peel, bergamot, lemony peppered coriander, and dust. It is followed by a sour wood note that is simultaneously green, unripe, and desiccated. Dustiness infuses everything, especially the coriander which smells old, stale, and sharp. It’s not the dustiness of patchouli, but rather, of a dirt road or a crypt.

The wood note isn’t appealing either, as it is slightly off, almost like rancid “sandalwood.” A few months ago, I received a concentrated Australian sandalwood oil, and it smells extremely close to the aroma in Patchouli Imperial. The oil had an oddly medicinal, mentholated edge which isn’t apparent here, but it had the same “off,” green tonality that eventually turned a bit creamy like sour buttermilk.

Photo: D&M Canon. dmcanon.blogspot.com

Photo: D&M Canon. dmcanon.blogspot.com

The dustiness is quite something. It leaves an itchiness at the back of my throat, but more than that, it creates a staleness around the notes that robs the citric elements of all their brightness and zestiness. It also amplifies the definite herbaceous quality in Patchouli Imperial, especially the lavender which has all the dried, pungent, sharp characteristics that I loathe so much. The overall effect is to a create a fragrance that is as much a dry woody scent as it is an aromatic, fougère cologne.

Source: vfxdude.com

Source: vfxdude.com

Other notes soon arrive to join the bitter citruses, pungent lavender, sour green woods, and dried tonalities. At first, it is cedar which is equally dry and musty. Then, there is a hint of creamy sweetness that cuts through the stale, bitter, and arid accords, but it is very muted. More noticeable is a sour medicinal element that appears after about five minutes. It is sharp and pungent, but it doesn’t smell like the camphorated, leafy darkness of patchouli. Instead, it has an almost leathered greenness that feels like a distant cousin to galbanum. 

Patchouli Imperial is such an odd mix of sourness, greenness, dark brown desiccation and aridity, dust, staleness, and pungency. Dried lavender, dried bitter orange peel, bitter lemon, heaping amounts of peppered coriander, dust, dry cedar, unripe sour buttermilk “sandalwood,” and more dust — it’s really unpleasant to my nose. I’ve tried Patchouli Imperial a few times over the last 6 months, and most recently again in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport in October, and each time, I’ve recoiled at its opening. People sometimes use the term “old lady” as a derogatory way to describe fragrances; I dislike the term as something that is both sexist and not particularly useful as a descriptor, but I’ve often wondered why no-one describes fragrances as being “old man” in nature.

Well, let me use it here. Patchouli Imperial has a sour, stale, musty “old man” aroma. It reminds me distinctly of an old Greek man I once knew whose old-fashioned fougère cologne mixed with a definite dustiness from his old books, as well as a subtle whisper of sour staleness from his unshaven face and his ancient, brown cardigan. He was a very sweet chap, but I wouldn’t want to smell like him.   

Light, natural, cocoa powder.

Light, natural, cocoa powder.

Fifteen minutes in, a creamy cocoa powder pops up in the sidelines, adding to the discordant jangle. The stale coriander powder grows sharper, as do the lemon and lime. The sour green sandalwood darts in and out, toying with the musty woodiness of the cedar. Thankfully, the pungency of the lavender softens a little, and that brief flicker of leathered greenness vanishes. The desiccated woodiness in the base remains, however, and my throat feels scratchier than ever. It has to be something synthetic, especially as there is something distinctly sharp in Patchouli Imperial when smelled up close. 

"Dusty Woods" by Brenejohn on DeviantArt. brenejohn.deviantart.com

“Dusty Woods” by Brenejohn on DeviantArt. brenejohn.deviantart.com

It takes about 25 minutes for Patchouli Imperial to soften, and for those sharp, pungent edges to get smoothed out. The fragrance’s sillage drops to a few inches above the skin, and turns mellower. It’s still incredibly dry, however, with a bouquet that is primarily woody lavender cologne with various dusty bits, an abstract patchouli, lemon, peppered coriander, and cedar. The patchouli that is starting to appear isn’t spicy, sweet, ambered, or mellow. It’s merely another form of dry woods with a dusty, herbal facet. The subtle whispers of cocoa and that green, unripe “sandalwood” in the base give Patchouli Imperial a very distant kinship with Guerlain‘s L’Instant Pour Homme Eau de Toilette (“LIDG”). Yet, the Dior has none of the latter’s black tea, its floral tonalities, or its creamy sweetness. At times, the dry citric and fougère elements remind me of Habit Rouge’s opening, but that fragrance was never sour, stale, or musty either.

Patchouli Imperial eventually loses its unpleasant start. The citric aromatics and lavender recede to the sidelines at the end of the first hour, but it takes a while longer for the creamy undertone and cocoa to fully emerge and to turn the fragrance into something less stale. The notes blur into each other, and Patchouli Imperial becomes a soft, gauzy, sheer haze of citric aromatics, dry woods, dry patchouli, dry cocoa powder, and some abstract creaminess. Tiny whispers of lavender and peppered coriander lurk underneath, but they’re muffled. Patchouli Imperial is a skin scent after 90 minutes, though the fragrance is still strong when sniffed up close.

"Golden Brown" by Emily Faulkner. Source: redbubble.com

“Golden Brown” by Emily Faulkner. Source: redbubble.com

Around 2.25 hours into Patchouli Imperial’s development, the fragrance takes on the characteristic that will remain for a while: a blurry soft, citrus, patchouli, woody scent. The amount of cocoa powder waxes and wanes, but the note feels increasingly nebulous and abstract as the hours pass. The best way I can describe it is as something that smells like dry sweetness, instead of actual chocolate. The patchouli also feels abstract, verging more an a generalized dry woodiness that has a hint of some sweetness than any actual, distinct “patchouli” in its own right. The citrus element finally fades away around the middle of the fourth hour, and an abstract “ambery” quality takes its place. In its final drydown, Patchouli Imperial is a nebulous, gauzy whisper of dry woods just lightly flecked with some ambered sweetness and a hint of powder.

Source: wallsave.com

Source: wallsave.com

Like all its Dior Privé siblings, Patchouli Imperial has moderate sillage and good longevity. At first, the fragrance is quite potent and strong, but the projection drops after 90 minutes, and Patchouli Imperial wears close to the skin for the rest of its duration. Dior intentionally wants its fragrances to be refined, unobtrusive, discreet, but strong and long-lasting, and Patchouli Imperial is no exception. All in all, it lasted a little over 9 hours on me. On people with normal skin, the more oriental or ambered Privé fragrances can last much longer.

I’m not at all enthusiastic about Patchouli Imperial. I’m not judging it as a patchouli fragrance, because, by and large, it isn’t one in my opinion. I’m judging it as a men’s cologne, and I think there are better takes on this particular profile than Patchouli Imperial. Its opening is horrid and incredibly unpleasant. While the fragrance subsequently improves and loses that discordant, jangling, dry, sour staleness, it merely devolves into a generic citric, dry woody scent before ending up as a slightly less dry, ambered, woody blur. I should probably repeat the word “dry” a few more times, but I think you’ve gotten the point by now.

You might argue that Patchouli Imperial is a refined take on patchouli, but it wasn’t on my skin. It felt uninteresting, average, and unoriginal more than anything else. For patchouli-mixed scents, I think you’d do far better with Guerlain’s L’Instant Pour Homme in either concentration (as there are olfactory differences between the two) or Chanel‘s Coromandel. For fragrances that primarily focused on patchouli, there are a host of options that I would recommend before this one, starting with Profumum‘s Patchouly. On the other hand, I think men who hate patchouli may enjoy Patchouli Imperial. By their standards, the note may seem very clean, fresh, and refined.

On Fragrantica, reviewers are more enthusiastic than I am about Patchouli Imperial. Some seem to have experienced much more actual patchouli than I did. Others compare the scent to Givenchy Gentleman or Nasomatto’s Absinth. I haven’t tried either to be able to compare. A number of people mention both amber and powder in the drydown, while a few bring up mentholated notes in the start. The comment that amused me the most came from a poster who said he got the most bizarre unsolicited comments whenever he wore Patchouli Imperial from friends who “associate it with along the lines of Caveman, Mummy’s Tomb, DOM, Closet filled of mothballs etc.” I suspect that is the crypt-like dust that dominates Patchouli Imperial’s start. 

I generally really like the Dior Privée line, but Patchouli Imperial is a complete pass for me. I don’t enjoy it as a cologne, and it’s definitely not my idea of a beautiful patchouli.   

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Patchouli Imperial is an eau de parfum that is available exclusively at Dior boutiques, at Dior online, and a few select, high-end department stores. Dior Privée perfumes come in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $170 with the new Dior price increase, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $250. (There is a third option which is so enormous, I can’t imagine anyone buying it.)
In the U.S.: Patchouli Imperial is found at Dior’s NYC boutique, and at the main Las Vegas store [call (702) 369-6072]. Ordering from the store is best as they will give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles, to go with your purchase. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax. U.S. Department Stores: New York’s Bergdorf Goodman, San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus, and the Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland also carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes.
Outside of the US: The Dior International page offers all their Privée fragrances for you to order online. This is the listing for Patchouli Imperial, but there doesn’t seem to be an e-store from which to purchase it. In addition, you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have the perfume available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give Patchouli Imperial a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line (minus the discontinued Vetiver), Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99.

Dior Eau Noire (La Collection Privée): Licorice Immortelle

Source: fr.123rf.com

Source: fr.123rf.com

Chilled iciness and warmth, silvered light and black darkness, thickness and airiness, herbal crispness with gourmand chewiness, all swirled together in one. That is Eau Noire, a surprisingly gourmand fragrance from Dior with almost a fractal juxtaposition of textures, notes, and sensations.

Eau Noir is part of Dior’s prestige line of fragrances called La Collection Privée. (The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance, but I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website.) The eau de parfum was one of the very first Dior Privée perfumes, and was released in 2004. Unlike most of its siblings, it was not the creation of François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior. Instead, it was created by the then-young perfume prodigy, Francis Kurkdjian, who went on to found his own perfume house, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, to great acclaim. 

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

Dior categorizes Eau Noire as an “oriental aromatic,” and provides the following description:

An elegant gala spirit in an intense evening fragrance, swathed in mystery. This interpretation of Lavender in chiaroscuro reflects the atmosphere of the Château de la Colle Noire, an estate owned by the Designer, which is located in the Provence region.

Dior’s very limited — and I would argue, very incomplete — list of notes include:

White Thyme, Lavender, Liquorice, Vanilla Bourbon, and Virginia Cedar.

Fragrantica adds coffee, leather, spiced sage, and violets as well. And everyone includes immortelle, that tricky note that can smell of maple syrup, curry, and several other things as well. I definitely agree with a lot of those additions. So, in my opinion, the full note list looks more like this:

White Thyme, Lavender, Liquorice, Coffee, Immortelle, Vanilla Bourbon, Leather, and Virginia Cedar.

Source: Dylanscandybar.com

Source: Dylanscandybar.com

Eau Noire opens on my skin with the blackness of its name. It is a potent blast of licorice that is chewy and thick, almost resinously meaty in its depths, and, surprisingly, very chilled in feel. It’s followed by hints of thyme, coffee, vanilla, and a brief, transient pop of thick, yellow, spiced curry. It’s such an odd combination of iced, herbal, spiced and sweet notes that you have to blink. To be honest, the forcefulness of the licorice — so concentrated and thick that it feels like the distillation of every black anisic candy on the planet — is a bit alarming for someone like myself. Until just ten years ago, the mere smell of licorice would make my stomach heave and, though I now enjoy eating fennel/anise, I still won’t go near black licorice. 

Source: blog.diginn.com

Source: blog.diginn.com

Nonethelesss, Eau Noire is oddly mesmerizing. I feel almost paralyzed and transfixed by the scent which becomes increasingly more nuanced and complicated. An unexpected floral note darts about, though it’s not immediately identifiable, at this point, as anything in specific. Then comes the immortelle, coffee, and caramel. The coffee is lovely, potent, and black, just like a freshly brewed cup combined with the scent of freshly ground expresso beans, and it works beautifully with the licorice. 

Immortelle, or Helichrysum in Corsica. Source: Wikicommons.

Immortelle, or Helichrysum in Corsica. Source: Wikicommons.

The real key to Eau Noire, however, is the Immortelle (or Helichrysum) which must be in Eau Noire by the bucketfuls. Francis Kurkdjian has created a multi-faceted note, because the fragrance reflects almost all of immortelle’s various characteristics: dryly herbal floralacy; maple syrup; dry woodiness; and the curry that popped up that for a brief moment at the beginning. (No fenugreek, thank God.) I think that Eau Noire’s strong caramel note must stem from the combination of the immortelle’s maple syrup aspect with the Vanilla Bourbon. By the same token, if the coffee is not an actual, separate note, then I suppose it may be the result of the licorice mixed with the vanilla. Either way, Eau Noire is a fascinating blend of chewy, dense black licorice, sweet caramel, maple syrup, strong coffee, with flickers of herbs and a subtle undercurrent of rich vanilla. 

Source: 1ms.net

Source: 1ms.net

Ten minutes in, Eau Noire feels warmer, sweeter, and more gourmand. The lavender keeps trying to brush his way onto the stage, only to get elbowed back to the sidelines by the other notes. Still, he tries valiantly, his little purple head darting up and down every five minutes above the big, blokey shapes of the licorice and maple syrup. The name “Eau Noire” feels almost misleading for a scent that is so much like a rich, unctuous, almost cloying dessert. It certainly wasn’t what I had expected.

By the end of the first hour, Eau Noire changes. The lavender is very prominent now, and there are hints of something woody in the base. The fragrance, as a whole, is a more modulated, balanced, and smoother blend that is equal parts licorice, coffee, and lavender. The dominant trio is trailed lightly by caramel, vanilla, occasional hints of maple syrup, and the lingering, muted traces of an intangible, abstract floral. The licorice fascinates me in its dense potency. Sometimes, it has a distinctly icy feel. At other times, there is a very subtle but unmistakable leatheriness to the note. At all times, however, it is chewy and almost resinous in feel, conjuring up images of something like a thick, black brownie, only made of pure licorice.

For the next few hours, Eau Noire remains largely unaltered in its core essence. The only differences are one of degree, not of kind, as there are subtle changes in the order, priority and strength of the various notes. The lavender waxes and wanes in strength, as does the power of the licorice, coffee, and caramel. Each one takes its turn leading the brigade, and sometimes, they all share equal time on stage in a well-blended swirl.

Source: free-3d-textures.com

Source: free-3d-textures.com

Dior’s description for the fragrance references the term “chiaroscuro,” an interplay of contrasts, and Francis Kurkdjian certainly succeeded here. For the first six hours, Eau Noire is a constant play on opposites: chilly iciness; silvery lightness; warm blackness; airiness and dense chewiness. The texture or depth of Eau Noire follows suit, because the visual feel of black, unctuous denseness is juxtaposed with the fragrance’s surprisingly airy weight. Don’t mistake me, Eau Noire is not weak in sillage — quite the opposite, actually — but the fragrance doesn’t feel opaque or heavy. Instead, it billows around you like a very forceful cloud with at least half a foot in projection from just 2 large smears. This is not a fragrance to overspray with reckless abandon if you work in a conservative office environment.

One thing I found interesting was how Eau Noire appeared from afar. Around the third hour, as the fragrance wafted all around me, I would catch little trails of it in the air. I’ll be honest, my mouth watered a little at the aroma, despite not generally being a fan of gourmand fragrances. There is something about Eau Noire that is utterly entrancing from a distance where it smells almost like a chocolate-coffee-caramel mix, and I found it much prettier than up close where you can separate out the notes into chewy, black licorice with lavender, coffee, and vanilla.

Another point is the impact of different temperatures on the scent. I tested Eau Noire this summer, and found it both cloyingly sweet and largely dominated from the start by the maple syrup aspect of immortelle. Though my tests always take place indoors under extremely cool air-conditioning, as well as outdoors, it was hot enough this summer that even short periods outside made Eau Noire’s sweetness really explode. I don’t generally believe in seasonality when it comes to wearing fragrances, but I think Eau Noire is much prettier in cooler conditions where its various accords blend in better harmony and it’s not quite so sweet.

Maple Syrup. Source: iccoin.com

Maple Syrup. Source: iccoin.com

Around the start of the fourth hour, Eau Noire starts to change again. At first, it’s merely a subtle difference in the base where flickers of a smoky woodiness start to stir, as the cedar attempts to make itself heard. More importantly, however, the immortelle reverts back to its maple syrup character instead of the primarily caramel facet it had shown up to now. It also starts to become increasingly more prominent in the fragrance’s composition. At the same time, the lavender starts to weaken, and the licorice loses some of its shape. The latter feels as though it has infused or melted into every other element in the fragrance. It also starts to feel extremely leathery in undertone, instead of just plain licorice.

Increasingly, Eau Noire becomes primarily an immortelle fragrance in nature. Maple syrup dominates, followed by leathery licorice. The lavender pops up and down like a Jack in the Box, but it’s no longer an equal partner with the other notes. The coffee has vanished, along with the vanilla bourbon. The cedar is barely noticeable, even in the background. At times, Eau Noire feels mostly like maple syrup with caramel, though it’s somewhat drier than those terms would suggest. Actually, I’m surprised that the fragrance has as much dryness as it does. On my skin, Eau Noire isn’t a fragrance that is oozing sugary syrup, though it is sweet. I suspect the cedar may be working indirectly from the base, along with the leathery undertones of the licorice, to keep some of the sweetness in check.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

Eau Noire’s sillage also starts to change. At the start of the sixth hour, the fragrance loses some of its powerful projection, and hovers only an inch or two above the skin. It is still quite potent when smelled up close, but it no longer sends little trails out into the air around you. At the end of the eighth hour (!), Eau Noire finally becomes a skin scent, radiating primarily maple syrup with a faint hint of black licorice. In its final hours, the fragrance is merely a blur of sweetness. All in all, Eau Noire lasted an astounding 14.5 hours on my perfume consuming skin. Most of Dior’s Privée line has exceptional longevity, but Eau Noire exceeded all the ones that I’ve tried thus far.

I think Eau Noire is a very well-made, intriguing, and rather mesmerizing scent on some levels, but I have mixed feelings about it personally. As a whole, its dark sweetness was much more attractive than I had expected from its opening moments, especially once I got over the shock of that much licorice. Yet, despite how entrancing Eau Noire can smell from afar, I’m not hugely tempted to get a bottle. For one thing, I struggle with gourmands. In light of that fact, even if I had a bottle, I’m not sure how often I could wear such a fragrance. Eau Noire is lovely as a “once in a blue moon” sort of fragrance, but, with Dior’s increased prices and out-sized bottles, do I really want to spend $170 for the “small” 4.5 oz bottle just for occasional wear? For me, it doesn’t seem worth it, but I’m sure that a gourmand lover would find Eau Noire to be worth every penny.

Of course, that assumes that the notes wouldn’t go terribly south on your skin. Eau Noire doesn’t seem to be the easiest fragrance for some people, due to the immortelle. In fact, Fragrantica is littered with comments about some of Eau Noire’s odder manifestations: curried lavender; “curried creme brulée” mixed with cedar; “curry meets caramel;” a “sinister affair of spices and herbs… that reminds me of cough syrup;” and more. One woman thinks Eau Noire is best on a man, while a male commentator thinks it’s a woman’s fragrance.

On the other side are those who are ardent admirers. One commentator thinks it’s the most “sublime” lavender fragrance ever, with spices and a touch of leather, calling it a “real masterpiece of subtlety and spice.” A number of people had the same experience I did with the interplay of contrasting notes. To give you just one out of many similar accounts:

EN is an olfactory maze of ying-yang scents. It is warm and cold, sweet/spicy and woody/leathery, bright and obscure, simple and complex. Indeed, its name says it all: black water. You don’t know what you might get or what to make of it when you wade in it. The key here is to relax and take it in. Just breath in every punch that is thrown at you with your eyes closed and take in each aroma and you may start valuing the grand bal of scents that dance together here. It is a mary-go-round composition where each note underneath the core licorice and lavender combo decides to jump in randomly, show up for a moment, and then suddenly be replaced by another. You will not get bored with this polytonal composition.

Ultimately, I think that you will like Eau Noire only if you adore immortelle in all of its various characteristics (including the potential curry note), along with gourmand scents in general. If so, then Eau Noire will probably be true love for you. Take, for example, the Candy Perfume Boy, a blogger known for enjoying a number of gourmand perfumes, and who has said flat-out that, for him, Eau Noire is “a holy grail fragrance.” In his review, entitled “Eau My God!“, he writes, in part:

The first blast of Eau Noire is somewhat of a baptism of fire […] I find it to be a totally joyful experience, and unlike anything else that has come into contact with my nostrils.

Things fall into place pretty quickly and the top notes are very much about lavender and liquorice, two aromas that are very much intertwined. Each brings out the dark anisic, herbal, and sugary qualities of the other and the overall vibe is neither floral nor gourmand, it sits somewhere comfortably between.

Possibly the most striking aspect of Eau Noire is the HUGE amount of imortelle within the heart. […] Personally I love imortelle, it is perhaps one of the most complex and pleasing smells around, it smells like sweet maple syrup, burned sugar and curry. Much to my pleasure, Eau Noire seems to showcase each and every one of the imortelle flower’s wonderful facets in perfect proportion. […][¶]

I keep trying to think whether I have smelled a fragrance as damn good as this recently, and I really don’t think I have! Eau Noire is everything that a good fragrance should be; distinct, unusual, well proportioned and exceptionally blended, beautiful and of obscenely high quality. Bravo Dior!

It is the ultimate accolade from a man who knows (and loves) his gourmands. And he’s not alone in his passion for Eau Noire. A number of its fans talk about its beauty in this Basenotes thread discussing a possible Eau Noire clone, J’S Extè Man, from an Italian company. On the official Basenotes review post for Eau Noire, the fragrance has a total of Four Stars, with 67% of the 57 reviews giving it a full five stars and making such comments as: “Pure perfection. Completely flawless creation.”

On the other hand, 23% or 13 commentators give Eau Noire just one star, and the main reason almost each time can be summed up as “maple syrup and curry.” I cannot emphasize enough that you have to love immortelle in ALL its potential aspects to love Eau Noire. There may have been just a single, momentary pop of curry on me, but then, my skin has almost never brought out that side of immortelle. (Thank God!) Clearly, I’m one of the lucky ones, but you may not fare so well.

Source: atyabtabkha.3a2ilati.com

Source: atyabtabkha.3a2ilati.com

As a side note, a number of people have compared Eau Noire to Annick Goutal‘s Sables, perhaps the ultimate benchmark for immortelle fragrances. I haven’t tried it to know how it measures up, but one commentator in that Basenotes thread, “alfarom,” has a useful comparison. He states that Sables “pushes to the very limit the boldness of Helichrysum by introducing a massive dose of amber, [while] Eau Noir focuses on its gourmandic/syrupy aspect adding a liqorice effect and a strong vanilla base[.]”

As you can see, again and again, the issue comes back to immortelle and gourmands. If you share the gourmand sensibilities of The Candy Perfume Boy, and if you love both immortelle and licorice, then I strongly encourage you to give Eau Noire a sniff. If you love gourmands but immortelle doesn’t always work on your skin, then you should hesitate and perhaps consider a test. But if you loathe immortelle, licorice and/or gourmands, then run very, very far away. Eau Noire may make you utterly miserable.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Eau Noire is an eau de parfum that is available exclusively at Dior boutiques, at Dior online, and a few select, high-end department stores. Dior Privé perfumes come in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $170 with the new Dior price increase, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $250. (There is a third option which is so enormous, I can’t imagine anyone buying it.)
In the U.S.: Ambre Nuit found at Dior’s NYC boutique, and at the main Las Vegas store [call (702) 369-6072]. If you’re really interested, however, what I would do is to call this number instead — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She is an amazingly sweet lady who will also give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles, to go with your purchase. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. (I get nothing for the recommendation, by the way.) U.S. Department Stores: New York’s Bergdorf Goodman, San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus, and the Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland also carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes.
Outside of the US: The Dior International page offers all their Privée fragrances for you to order online. This is the listing for Eau Noire. In addition, you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have the perfume available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give Eau Noire a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line (minus the new Gris Montaigne), Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99.

Perfume Review – Dior Ambre Nuit (La Collection Privée)

The sensuous slither of limbs. The expanse of a man’s chest, heated and lightly musky. The slow seduction of a dance that is always completely refined, just hinting at the passion below. The heated languor of the tango is what comes to mind when I wear Ambre Nuit, an incredibly sensuous but highly refined fragrance from Dior‘s prestige line of fragrances called La Collection Privée. (The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance, but I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website.) For me, everything about Ambre Nuit calls to mind the Latin tango — from the rhythm of its developing notes, to its mood, to the sensuality that almost borders on the overt but which, ultimately, is too refined and elegant to really cross the line.

La Vida es Un Tango. Movie still or advert. Source: Facebook.

La Vida es Un Tango. Movie still or advert. Source: Facebook.

Ambre Nuit was released in 2009, the creation of François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior. Dior categorizes the fragrance as an “amber woody floral,” and provides the following description:

Source: Basenotes.

Source: Basenotes.

A mysterious fragrance, inspired by the baroque atmosphere and balls of the 18th century, which left their marks on Christian Dior. The tale of a Rose seduced by carnal Amber, which together unveil an unexpected profound, intense and elusive scent.

Describing Ambre Nuit as a “rose” fragrance might be little misleading, in my personal opinion. It is most definitely not that on my skin for the majority of its development, nor for many others. In fact, I would say that “rose” is almost the least of things I experienced with this smoky, woody, amber fragrance. Dior’s list of notes include:

Bergamot di Calabria, Turkish Damascus Rose Essence, New Zealand Ambergris, Gaiac Wood, Cedar Wood and Patchouli.

Fragrantica adds pink peppercorns; Ozmoz adds spices and balsam notes; and I would toss in both frankincense and myrrh. The real key, however, is the ambergris which is a whole other olfactory animal than the regular amber used in the majority of perfumery. A very rare, astronomically expensive ingredient, ambergris has a strong, salty-sweet character that is always sensual, often slightly musky, occasionally a little animalic, and usually so creamily rich that it can border on ambered caramel.

"Tango and Cobblestones",  painting by Aldo Luongo. Source: ipaintingsforsale.com

“Tango and Cobblestones”, painting by Aldo Luongo. Source: ipaintingsforsale.com

Ambre Nuit opens on my skin with sweet, refined patchouli, followed by sun-warmed bergamot and pink peppercorns. Unlike the patchouli note in many commercial fragrances, nothing here smells like the sharp, plastic-y, highly synthetic ingredient that is always painfully loaded with purple fruitness. Though the patchouli smells a little grape-y at first, it is a very refined, subtle aroma that is actually a little black in nature. It has a smokiness that would imply incense as a hidden note, something that is borne out later by the rest of Ambre Nuit’s development. From the start, though, something about the patchouli and smoke accord in Ambre Nuit reminds me of Chanel‘s gorgeous, glorious Coromandel from its Exclusifs collection. 

Source: YouTube.com

Source: YouTube.com

The pink peppercorns in Ambre Nuit differ slightly in aroma from that used in commercial, mainstream perfumery. They have a fiery, spicy edge that evokes red, chili or pimento peppers, instead of something wholly fruity in nature. (The excessive, pink peppercorn and patchouli combination in Marc JacobsLola comes to mind when thinking of things that Ambre Nuit does not resemble!) Here, the pepper infuses the subtle, muted rose note, along with the patchouli, turning the flower into something red, rich, and darkened. Yet, the rose is never so syrupy or sweet as to feel jammy and fruited; it’s too smoky and dry for that. 

All the main top notes sit upon a base of beautifully dry, rich, nuanced woods with amber. The accord is smoky from the gaiac; peppered and aromatic from the cedar; and burnished to a soft, rich edge from the ambergris. The latter feels very much like the real stuff with its salty, musky facets. Here, however, the ambergris also has a subtle undertone of something that is simultaneously honeyed and almost boozy. I suspect the combination of the patchouli, peppercorns, and ambergris is responsible for the almost cognac-like, liqueured undercurrents running through Ambre Nuit.

Ambre Nuit’s nuances in the early stage really show themselves best when a large quantity is applied, but there are dangers with that, as well. I tried the perfume twice, with the first test consisting of one, medium-ish smear, and the second entailing about 2.5 very large ones. With the smaller quantity, it’s harder to detect the full range of the perfume’s layers; Ambre Nuit is so well-blended that it ends up becoming just a single, very smooth, almost abstract, smoky, woody, ambery bouquet after the first thirty to forty minutes. With a larger dose, you can see more of the nuances in the fragrance, but then the pink peppercorns can verge a little on the over-bearing. For me, at least, it was a little sharp, unbalanced, and just tipping towards the screechy category. It wasn’t a problem at all with the smaller dose, so I suspect one has to go the Goldilocks’ route and try for a dose in the middle. Regardless of quantity, in its opening half hour, Ambre Nuit is a beautiful, very potent blend of smoky, liqueured, salty-sweet amber, with dry woods and a quiet touch of delicate roses that have been rendered a little fiery from the peppers and a little sweet from the patchouli.

"Dancers" photograph by Erwin Olaf. Source: KontraPLAN magazine.

“Dancers” photograph by Erwin Olaf. Source: KontraPLAN magazine.

What fascinates me, however, is the patchouli and incense combination in Ambre Nuit. I am convinced that there is incense in the perfume. It is as though Dior decided to do a variation of the note in its divine Mitzah, another smoky, oriental, rose-based perfume, but Dior opted to combine incense with ambergris in lieu of Mitzah’s labdanum. Ambre Nuit has the exact same sort of subtle smokiness in the base. The patchouli is a perfect accompaniment to both elements: it’s a little 1970s, hippie-ish, except it’s so refined in Ambre Nuit that it lacks any skanky, musty, musky, pothead-type of dirtiness. Underlying the smoky, salty, sweet notes is an unexpected honey tone that must come from the ambergris. It has subtle beeswax nuance to it as well, which just adds to the richness and depth of the base.

Thirty minutes into Ambre Nuit’s development, the woody notes start to rise to the surface. Gaiac can sometimes have a slightly tarry, asphalt-like character, while at other times, it can smell like burning leaves. Here, both aspects lurk under the creamy, soft, smooth wood. When combined with the incense notes in Ambre Nuit, it serves to create a wonderfully dry accord that counterbalances any sweetness from the patchouli and offsets any heaviness from the ambergris.

"Tango": Freja Beha Erichsen and Baptiste Giabiconi by Karl Lagerfeld for German Vogue.

“Tango”: Freja Beha Erichsen and Baptiste Giabiconi by Karl Lagerfeld for German Vogue.

There is something extremely sensuous about the combination of notes in Ambre Nuit that consistently make me think of an Argentinian tango between heated dancers in some smoky, dark room — except they are dressed in the most refined, elegant, couture outfits. The ambergris’ special, unique features evoke the warmth of heated, slightly musky skin that has been rendered just the faintest bit salty from sweat. The incense conjures up the smoky, dark feel of those dance rooms, while the gaiac and cedar replicate the incredibly smooth, wooden floors that the dancers glide across. The rose note is nothing more than a mere accessory, as inconsequential as the flower in a dancer’s hair, and hardly a significant part of the scent on my skin, especially as Ambre Nuit continues. All the notes, however, are very smooth and refined, thereby ensuring that Ambre Nuit stays a level above the many, mainstream, commercial scents that have similar elements. I must confess, though, I worry a little about those pink peppercorns which could have been handled with a slightly softer touch. They are the only thing that tarnish Ambre Nuit’s more sophisticated balance.

At the end of the first hour, Ambre Nuit is a gorgeous, smoky ambergris perfume. There is a sweet-salty creaminess which is infused by incense, a light flicker of warm musk, a dash of honey, and a tinge of beeswax — all atop very dry, smoky woods. The patchouli has melted into the ambergris, adding to its rich sweetness. And the rose has completely vanished. As a whole, Ambre Nuit  is a little too potent in its sillage in the early hours to be called “airy,” but it has a very plush feel that is as rich as velvet. And, yet, it is not opaque, heavy, or unctuous in any way.

Ambre Nuit never changes in its core essence, but some of its notes fluctuate in prominence. Around the middle of the second hour, the peppery gaiac wood takes the lead, followed by the ambergris, then the smoke, and trailed much further behind by the patchouli. The end of the third hour, however, sees the patchouli join the smoky woods and ambergris in a three-way tie. The whole thing is sweet, salty, smoky, a little bit musky, and absolutely beautiful. Again, the subtle similarities to Chanel‘s Coromandel raise their head for me. Ambre Nuit is significantly woodier and drier, and lacks the delicate, white cocoa powder, benzoin, and vanilla undertones of Coromandel. Yet, oddly enough, the patchouli in Ambre Nuit has taken on a distinctly chocolate-like nuance at its base, though it’s more akin to a gooey, dark chocolate ganache than the airy, white cocoa powder of Coromandel. Still, the way both fragrances are so infused with smoky incense and patchouli, that they feel like very distant cousins.

Ambre Nuit slowly grows closer to the skin, turning softer and more ambered in focus. Around the end of sixth hour, there is an odd quirk which occurred during both tests: the smoke takes on a soapy, white character that reminds me of myrrh. It only lasts about forty minutes, but it was noticeable enough to make me sit up on both occasions and think that the incense had become very churchy. It quickly fades, leaving Ambre Nuit’s remaining and final notes in the drydown phase as an abstract amber that is simultaneously a little dry, a little sweet from the final flickers of patchouli, and a little musky.

Like all of Dior’s Privée fragrances, Ambre Nuit has excellent longevity on my perfume-consuming skin and generally moderate sillage. Ambre Nuit lasted just under 8.5 hours on me with a single, medium-ish smear, and over 11.75 hours with 2.5 large ones. The sillage is significantly greater than some of the other Dior Privée fragrances, no doubt due to the impact of the patchouli which is always a more projecting ingredient. With the larger dose, Ambre Nuit wafted a good 4 inches above my skin for the first hour, thereafter dropping and becoming slightly less. But it took a whole 8 hours before it became a skin scent. If you work in a conservative office environment, I would suggest not spraying with abandon, especially as aerosolisation can increase a perfume’s potency. (Plus, there is that whole issue of needing to create a delicate balance with the pink peppercorns.)

Ambre Nuit is extremely well-liked, with raves on Fragrantica and elsewhere about its sophisticated, refined, opulent and very versatile nature. Interestingly, for some, like the Candy Perfume Boy, Ambre Nuit is much more of an oriental rose fragrance, calling to mind Le Labo‘s woody Rose 31, only with a slightly powdery undertone to the floral note. He adores it, and calls it “utterly fabulous.” For me, Rose 31 was mostly peppery cedar, with massive amounts of ISO E Super and a very muted rose, while Ambre Nuit had no powder at all — clearly, skin chemistry makes a difference. On Fragrantica, the talk isn’t about the powder, but about differing experiences with the rose. For some, it only appears midway during the perfume’s development, while others find it noticeable as a rich, aromatic rose from the start. There is also quite a bit of talk about the incense in the fragrance, too, with one commentator reaching the same conclusion that I did: both incense and myrrh must be part of Ambre Nuit. Others find the opening of Ambre Nuit to be both bright and significantly more citrus-like in focus than it was for me, with zesty grapefruit and bright bergamot.

Regardless of the variations, almost everyone adores Ambre Nuit and, for some, it is the best of the Dior Privée line. I don’t love Ambre Nuit as much as I adore its sibling — the labdanum-incense beauty that is Mitzah — but then, there aren’t a ton of things I like as much as Mitzah. Still, I definitely think it is worth checking out if you are a fan of easy, accessible amber fragrances. It’s not a revolutionary, edgy, unique amber fragrance; and it’s not a heavily spiced or very unctuous, opaque, fully baroque one, either. But it’s not meant to be any of those things.

Dior’s signature perfume style is to create incredibly smooth, refined, well-blended, generally unisex fragrances that take a slightly typical combination of notes, and raise it to a higher, almost couture-like level through the best ingredients and superior crafting. Dior is intentionally trying to create very accessible fragrances, but it wants them to be the height of refinement, sophistication, and discreet elegance. Ambre Nuit is no exception, though the fragrance is significantly more powerful than its softer, more unobtrusive, but equally elegant, siblings. (With great caution in spraying, Ambre Nuit might be appropriate for some conservative office environments.) For some who seek a more revolutionary, perhaps more unique bent to their amber fragrances, Ambre Nuit will probably be a little safe and little uninteresting. But I doubt they’d argue with its silky smooth nature, or with its luxurious undertones. As an added bonus, Ambre Nuit is almost cheap per ounce, relatively speaking, given the quality and the enormous size that Dior provides for its “small” version. The perfume costs $155 for a whopping 4.25 oz/125 ml — almost a full ounce more than the normal “large” version of most perfumes. (You should see the truly large Dior size at a behemoth 15.2 oz or 450 ml! You could use it as a cudgel or weapon!)   

For me, what distinguishes Ambre Nuit from some other ambers on the market is the glorious sensuality of its rare ambergris. When combined with the incense, the smoky, sweet-salty result is damn sexy. Watch the video below, listen to the music and how it undulates in different tempos, and see the lithe, swaying, connected bodies move. That’s Ambre Nuit for me.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Ambre Nuit is an eau de parfum that is available exclusively at Dior boutiques, at Dior online, and a few select, high-end department stores. Dior Privé perfumes come in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $155, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $230. (There is a third option which is so enormous, I can’t imagine anyone buying it.) In the U.S.: Ambre Nuit found at Dior’s NYC boutique, and at the main Las Vegas store [call (702) 369-6072]. If you’re really interested, however, what I would do is to call this number instead — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She is an amazingly sweet lady who will also give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles, to go with your purchase. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. Elsewhere, New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus also carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes.
Outside of the US: you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have the perfume available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give Ambre Nuit a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line (minus the new Gris Montaigne), Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99.

Perfume Reviews – Dior Leather Oud & Granville (La Collection Privée)

John Wayne riding through the arid desert canyons of New Mexico. Gary Cooper in a suit in the bracing, brisk air of Normandie. Two very different images of two very different men stemming from two very different fragrances in Dior‘s prestige La Collection Privée line of perfumes. (The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance, but I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website.) The fragrances are Leather Oud and Granville, and both were created by François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior, to reflect different aspects of the life of Christian Dior.

LEATHER OUD:

Dior Leather OudDior describes the scent as follows:

Christian Dior searched the world, looking for the most beautiful fabrics that exist. Like the Designer, the Perfumer chooses the most beautiful raw materials, one of which is Oud Wood from Indonesia. Highly powerful, vibrant and deep, Oud Wood is rare and particularly recognizable by the leather scents that it diffuses when burned. Using this unique wood, François Demachy created an intensely masculine fragrance, with strong character in which Leather notes intertwine with those of Gaiac Wood, Cedar and Sandalwood.

The notes for the fragrance, as compiled from both Dior and Fragrantica, include:

Cardamom, Clove, Leather, Indonesian Oud wood, Gaiac Wood, Civet, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Birch, Cedar, Vetiver, Amyris, Beeswax, Amber and Labdanum.

According to Wikipedia, Amyris is a type of flowering plant or tree that is sometimes called torchwood, and whose trunk emits a type of balsam resin that is often also called elemi. Civet, as many perfumistas know, can have a very musky, animalic aroma that can border on the fecal if used in excess, but which can also lend plush warmth to the depths of a perfume if handled right. 

Leather Oud is sometimes described as an intensely animalistic fragrance, redolent of civet, but the Dior Privé line is not known for extreme, sharp, forceful, or loud notes of any kind — and Leather Oud is no exception. On my skin, it is almost entirely a dry, dusty, woody fragrance with nuances of dry leather and the subtlest inflections of oud, all barely sweetened with a dusty, dusky cardamom. Animalic? Not by a long shot.

Gaiac Wood via Ozmoz.com

Gaiac Wood via Ozmoz.com

Leather Oud opens on my skin with a sour note like lemons, followed immediately thereafter by varying degrees of dry oud, bitter cloves, dusty cardamom, peppered and dry cypress, and slightly smoked gaiac wood. The top notes in the initial minutes smell a little rancid, though never fecal or wholly civet-like. There is a subtle, feline urinous edge, but it doesn’t last very long, either. Instead, Leather Oud starts pulsating out different layers of dry, smoky, peppered woods. There are subtle tinges of a rooty, dark vetiver, along with an equally dark, almost sour-smelling patchouli, and the merest suggestion of a herbal, floral element. The latter makes me think strongly of clary sage whose dry, lavendery veneer has a leathery undertone. The thing I find unpleasant in Leather Oud is the sour citric note that remains throughout much of the perfume’s development, and which impacts most of the remaining notes.

Dry, antique leather. Source: buffaloleatherstore.com

Dry, antique leather. Source: buffaloleatherstore.com

As for the leather, well, it’s there, but it is incredibly subtle. It’s not soft, warm, supple, sweetly aged and rich, but it’s also not black, raw, fecal or pungent, either. It verges on rawhide at times, feeling slightly phenolic and tarry due to the birch wood, but it’s a lot milder than I had expected. It’s also incredibly muted on my skin, overpowered in large part by the cornucopia of dry woods. In fact, the woods impact the feel of the leather to a large extent, turning it into something that feels dry, cracked and antique, instead of anything supple and rich.     

Forty minutes into Leather Oud’s development, there are subtle changes, though never to the perfume’s primary core. The agarwood (oud) which initially felt a little sharp now softens and takes on a slightly creamy feel, almost like cheese, before it eventually turns into something that is simply dry in feel. It is completely overshadowed by the dry gaiac wood with its smoky edges and which evokes images of burning leaves. Accompanying it is a peppered cedar. In the background, the cloves add a touch of bitterness around to the wood notes, and the cardamom brings in an extra layer of dustiness. 

Soon after the one-hour mark, Leather Oud turns softer, creamier, and smoother. It’s very much as though someone had buffed and polished all the rough edges out of the wood. The thread of sour lemon remains, but all the other notes, right down to the bitter cloves, seem more refined. The leather and the oud are mere flickering touches — so much so that I’d never consider Leather Oud to be either a true agarwood fragrance or a leather one. Their muted nature reminds me strongly of By Kilian‘s oud fragrances where the element is a mere background suggestion; if you’re expecting an oud like those offered by Montale, or a serious leather fragrance, then I think you’ll be sorely disappointed. As always Dior offers an extremely refined, smooth interpretation of notes in a well-blended fragrance that is meant to be rather discreet, unobtrusive, and the epitome of moderation. Leather Oud is no exception, right down to its sillage which becomes moderate-to-low around the 90-minute mark.

"Dry Lake Bed" by *VickyM72 on Deviantart.com http://vickym72.deviantart.com/art/Dry-Lake-Bed-184992067

“Dry Lake Bed” by *VickyM72 on Deviantart.com http://vickym72.deviantart.com/art/Dry-Lake-Bed-184992067

Though parts of Leather Oud, like the cardamom become slightly sweeter, the perfume’s essence remains unchanged for the remainder of its lifespan. It is a dusty, arid, woody fragrance infused with dry smoke and sprinkled with barely sweetened cardamom. Around the sixth hour, the bouquet of woods is joined by warm beeswax, but it does little to enrichen the fragrance. Leather Oud evokes, in part, the scent of a dusty bookstore with reams of old, dry paper and, visually, a desert in the old Wild West. For some reason, I keep seeing John Wayne in my mind’s eye. And he stays there for the next 12 hours, until the perfume starts to slowly fade away. In its final moments, Leather Oud is a simple cardamom muskiness, and nothing more. All in all, the fragrance lasted just under 14 hours on my perfume-consuming skin, with soft sillage throughout.

John Wayne in "Hondo" via cinemaforever.com

John Wayne in “Hondo” via cinemaforever.com

Leather Oud is far, far too dry for my personal tastes, but I think it’s a beautifully crafted, well-blended fragrance that is a highly refined take on dry, smoky woods. It seems to be one of the more beloved Dior fragrances, and men go crazy for it, though some on Fragrantica bemoan its dusty nature. A few commentators talk about intense civet notes, but most seem to find it quite manageable and muted. One commentator who is well used to civet, can “sniff it out a mile away,” and loves it wrote that he couldn’t detect any at all; in contrast, another noted a “creamy, fecal” undertone to the fragrance, while a third who despises civet says it is done so beautifully in Leather Oud that it is the first civet fragrance he loved. Obviously, this is a fragrance that you have to try for yourself in order to assess how the note will work out for you. I will say this, however: my skin tends to amplify base notes, especially the more animalistic ones, and I don’t think the animalic dirtiness was strong by any means!

Plus, it simply isn’t the Dior style or signature. None of the Dior Privé line of fragrances are meant to be extreme in any way; they’re meant to be the epitome of refinement and smoothness. And that certainly seems to the majority consensus on Leather Oud on Fragrantica. Their raves are simply too effusively long and gushing for me to quote in any coherent way, so I’ll just say that men who enjoy super dry fragrances (think Tauer‘s L’Air du Desert Marocain levels of dryness) with the subtlest tinge of oud, leather, and musk should definitely try out Leather Oud. I don’t think this would really work for most women, however, as the fragrance definitely veers towards the deep end of the masculine spectrum.

GRANVILLE:

Granville is technically supposed to be a women’s fragrance, but its deeply aromatic, invigorating, herbal, woody nature makes it much more suitable for a man, in my opinion.

Granville, Normandie. Source: normandie-tourisme.fr

Granville, Normandie. Source: normandie-tourisme.fr

Dior describes the perfume and its inspiration as follows:

The House where Christian Dior spent his childhood is located in Granville, in the Normandy region. Built overlooking the cliffs, it is surrounded by pine trees and has a view of the sea. Inspired by this site that is so dear to the Creator, François Demachy chose to create a fresh, invigorating and aromatic fragrance. “I not only wanted an aromatic fragrance, as the estate has an abundance of pine trees, but also one that is exceptionally invigorating and extremely fresh. The gusts of wind, the waves that are constantly breaking against the rocks… Nature, in Granville, is anything but serene. This fragrance is like the wind that blows through Granville.”

Dior GranvilleThe notes in Granville, as compiled from both Dior and Fragrantica, include:

mandarin, Sicilian lemon, White thyme, rosemary, pine needles, black pepper, sandalwood and gorse.

I’m used to “gorse” being another name for a Scottish bush or brushwood, but Fragrantica tells me that it’s also called Dyer’s Greenwood which has a dry, bracken-like aroma similar to “broom” (which, in itself, has a dry, hay-like scent). Either way, I don’t think it’s a prominent part of Granville which is dominated primarily by a strong eucalyptus-like, mentholated note infused with lemon and herbal touches. 

Granville opens on my skin with beautifully sweetened lemon. It has a sunny, bright, fresh warmth to it that is simply lovely. Within seconds, it is infused by strongly aromatic, herbal notes from the thyme, to a subtle glimmer of rosemary, and something quietly floral which feels very much like dry lavender. Granville has a strong resemblance at first to Dior‘s Eau Sauvage, but that quickly dissipates under an onslaught of fresh, camphorous pine with a decidedly eucalyptus-like character. It feels extremely sharp in comparison to the smoothness and richness of the lemon aromatics. Dry, slightly honeyed, hay-like elements from the broom/gorse and cracked black pepper are the final elements to round out the invigorating bouquet. 

Eucalyptus leaves.

Eucalyptus leaves.

Granville’s primary essence remains the same throughout most of the perfume’s lifespan. The only difference is the degree to which certain notes can compete with each other, though they have no chance to overcome the piney, mentholated, eucalyptus top note at all. Around the forty minute mark, there is the introduction of ISO E Super which eventually fades away after a few hours. Later, there is a much stronger impression of a faintly floral tinge to the herbs lurking in the background. In fact, I can’t help but think that herbaceous lavender is a hidden note, and its combination with the slightly tarry, mentholated pine note strongly calls to mind Santa Maria Novella‘s cologne, Ambra, which is dominated by an extremely similar, tarry, mentholated birch note atop lavender and citrus.

Source: permanentstyle.co.uk

Source: permanentstyle.co.uk

At the start of the second hour, Granville becomes smoother, softer, better rounded. It loses its sharp edges, but it retains a certain fresh briskness. It feels rather old-fashioned, conjuring up images of a very refined, classical, suave, debonair gentleman — like Gary Cooper — in a bracing, outdoors environment like the coastal cliffs of Normandie. At the same time, however, it also evokes a very old-fashioned European pharmacy, which is a distinctly less appealing impression. As a whole, Granville is a very linear fragrance that never changes much from start to finish. In its final hours, it’s nothing more than an abstract, woody muskiness with faint flickers of pine. All in all, Granville lasted just over 11 hours, and the sillage after the first forty minutes was moderate-to-low.

Granville doesn’t seem to have a very enthusiastic reception on Fragrantica — and I don’t blame them. I do think it’s better than some of the extremely negative comparisons to scrubbers, hospitals, bathroom cleaners, medicine, chemical astringents, and Ayurvedic Tooth powder that are listed, but it’s not a fantastic, super-duper fragrance nonetheless. It’s not terrible, but it’s far from great, either. I think the fairest (and, certainly, the most positive) description for Granville comes from the commentator, “alfarom,” who writes:

An high-end version of Pino Silvestre aimed to the ladies (well, sort of).

I’ve to admit the above sentence may sound disencouraging to someone but let me say Granville is terrific. It’s a classy herbal/citrus with resinous undertones that opens with a sparkling lemon joined by leafy green citruses. In this phase it may somehow bring to mind of classic Eau De Cologne type of stuff but when you’re just about to dismiss it because of this, pine and some culinary herbs (thyme and rosemary) join the party leading the fragrance to other territories. Slightly minty (menthol), bitter, dark green and much closer to Pino Silvestre than to an EDC.

That being said, Granville is not exactly up my alley, but if you’re into bright piney fragrances this is an extremely solid option. Originally aimed to the ladies but definitely more masculine.

I’ve never tried Pino Silvestre, and I smell eucalyptus far more than mint, but his description is pretty spot-on as a whole.  And Granville isn’t up my alley, either. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend that you rush out and try it unless you are really obsessed with mentholated pine or eucalyptus notes. In all honesty, I think Granville is a rather mediocre showing in the Privé line.

 

DETAILS:
Leather Oud is available exclusively at Dior boutiques or on Dior online. So is Granville. Dior Privé perfumes come in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $155, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $230. In the U.S.: both fragrances can be found at Dior’s NYC boutique, and the main Las Vegas store [call (702) 369-6072]. If you’re really interested, however, what I would do is to call this number instead — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She is an amazingly sweet lady who will also give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles, to go with your purchase. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. Elsewhere, New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus also carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes, though I don’t know if the SF Neiman Marcus carries all of them.
Outside of the US: you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have Leather Oud available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give Leather Oud a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. Granville is also available for the same price. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line, Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99.

Perfume Review – Dior New Look 1947 (La Collection Privée)

Dior New Look dressNames have weight and, in perfumery, can lead to certain expectations. In fashion, perhaps few names carry more of an instant iconography than Dior’s “New Look.” You see it right away: that famous silhouette, the exquisite clothes, and the spectacular black-and-white photography that often rose to the level of art. You see “New Look” and you associate it with the greatness that it reflects.

All of this may explain the lofty expectations for New Look 1947 and, perhaps, some of the subsequent disappointment. Critics claimed it was too insubstantial a floral, too abstract and sheer, and not worthy of such a great name.

Dior vintage 1950s ball gown.

Dior vintage 1950s ball gown.

I’m not immune to the expectations caused by symbolic names and, truth be told, New Look 1947 was not quite what I had expected. Then, I thought about it and I wondered: what did I expect? What really fits an iconic name and over-arching concept that encompasses so very much? The bottom line, to me, is that New Look 1947 is a very lovely, delicate, sometimes retro, airy, floral perfume and you may enjoy it a lot — especially if you just forget about the name and smell it.

Dior's famous "Junon" dress.

Dior’s famous “Junon” dress.

New Look 1947 is part of Dior‘s prestige La Collection Privée line of perfumes. The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance, but I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website. The Privée line consists of fourteen perfumes that are exclusive to Dior boutiques (only one in the US, in Las Vegas) and to its website. The collection began in 2003 with three perfumes but, starting in 2010, the company added more fragrances to the line, and one of those was New Look 1947. All of them were intended to illustrate and celebrate the life of its founder, Christian Dior, and were created by François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior.

Dior New Look 1947Dior categorizes the perfume as a “spicy floral” and puts its description in the context of the Dior history:

February 12, 1947: A major event was held at 30, avenue Montaigne in Paris, where Christian Dior presented his first fashion show. With his flower women and bright colors, the Designer launched a fresh fashion trend. “It’s a New Look!” exclaimed Carmel Snow, Editor-in-Chief at Harper’s Bazaar, thus christening the Designer’s inimitable style. Today, the New Look has become an explosive, generous, ultra-feminine and floral fragrance.

The notes for the fragrance, as compiled from Dior and other sources, include:

Ylang-ylang, Peony, Indian tuberose, Turkish rose, Jasmine sambac, Tuscan Iris, Siam Benzoin, and Madagascar Vanilla.

The first time I tried New Look 1947, I jotted down that its opening was “candy sweet florals” which reminded me of gummy drop sugared sweets. The second time I tried the perfume, I was perhaps a little more immune to the enormous sweetness and noticed the florals much more, writing how they were stunningly beautiful and of “astounding delicacy.” Both descriptions and experiences are true. New Look 1947’s opening is both incredibly sweet and incredibly lovely. Airy brushstrokes of ylang-ylang and jasmine vie with peony, sweet rose and the merest touch of tuberose — all on a base of creamy, custardy, rich vanilla. It’s as feminine and dainty as a gaggle of laughing, willowy geishas, walking on air.

Despite the airy weight of the florals, they are rich, strong and heady in those opening minutes. However, they are never indolic, sour, plastic-y or reminiscent of some of the more worrisome aspects of such indolic flowers as ylang-ylang and tuberose. There is nothing to evoke over-ripe decay or cat litter boxes. I suspect the incredible sweetness of the perfume is responsible, in part, for that.

Dior NLMinutes later, the powdery iris pushes aside some of the creamier, heavier white flowers, undercutting their richness and adding a distinctly retro note to the perfume. New Look 1947 starts to take on slight lipstick undertones in its powdery, iris femininity. The perfume also starts to turn a little abstract which, in perfume terms, is a way to describe something of an amorphous nature. The florals all blend into one amorphous floral “whole” with few distinct parts that you can pick out and sitting atop a structure of iris powder and vanilla. The tuberose note was never as individually noticeable as the other flowers and, now, it is even less so. I hope that reassures those who are rather terrified of the note and its often indolic, over-ripe nature.

Forty minutes into the development of the perfume, I suddenly detect a quiet note of velvety peppered woods with a flickering aspect of rubbing alcohol. It is definitely, and without a doubt, ISO E Super, an aromachemical to which my nose has become particularly attuned in recent weeks. Here, it is far from over-powering and, thankfully, has nothing antiseptic, medicinal or shriekingly chemical about it. If you were to ignore that flickering, fleeting rubbing alcohol undertone that pops up every now and then, all you’d really feel is that the perfume has a velvety texture of soft woods underlying the creamy, powdery florals.

"Oval Motif in Grey and Ochre 1961" by Wendy Pasmore at the Tate Museum, London.

“Oval Motif in Grey and Ochre 1961” by Wendy Pasmore at the Tate Museum, London.

By the start of the second hour, New Look 1947 has softened to a sheer skin scent. The ISO E’s alcoholic, peppery note — light though it was — has vanished, leaving nothing but a delicate iris scent with amorphous florals, light powder, sweet vanilla, and a velvety feel. The powder is now light and subtle, which is my personal preference, and no longer redolent of old-fashioned lipsticks. There remains something that feels almost woody to the velvety undertones of the scent but it is light. The whole thing is incredibly sheer and gauzy, and, oddly, reminds me of some modernist paintings that entail abstract brush strokes or Jackson Pollack’s random splatterings of grey and white.

In its final hours, the perfume turns into a simple jasmine and iris floral with vanilla benzoin undertones. It’s nothing complicated and far from revolutionary — but I don’t think any of the Privée line were meant to be. They were meant to be well-crafted scents that evoke elegance and femininity in the classic tradition. New Look 1947 certainly succeeds in that endeavor.

The perfume’s sheerness and low sillage create the misleading impression that it is a vanishing scent. It is not, but it is a skin scent. I haven’t tried the full Privée line (yet), but I have the sense that they are all meant to be lightweight in feel, and elegantly unobtrusive in projection, while remaining for much longer than you’d expect. (The ambery-labdanum and incense Mitzah which I adore was the same way.) For something that is even lighter and gauzier than Mitzah, New Look 1947 was surprisingly persistent and lasted just short of 8 hours.

The sheerness of the scent seems to be one of the main reasons for the blogosphere’s disappointment with the perfume. Bois de Jasmin wrote:

Christian Dior New Look 1947 is one of my most disappointing and frustrating discoveries this year. I say it because I absolutely love the voluptuous idea of its tuberose and violet accord and the image of red lipstick glamor that it conveys. Yet on the skin, New Look 1947 feels far too soft spoken and sheer to fully deliver on its promise of bold elegance circa 1940s Paris.  [¶] …Unfortunately as time goes on, New Look 1947 does not build up to any crescendo and simply fades into a vague powdery floral. My hope is that Dior might consider releasing it as the extrait de parfum. Such a beautiful idea certainly deserves to make a grander statement.

A passionate defense of New Look 1947 was mounted by Octavian Coifan, the acclaimed blogger of 1000 Fragrances, who wrote that the perfume was actually the perfect, symbolic embodiment of the New Look:

New Look 1947, the new exclusive fragrance from “La Collection Couturier Parfumeur” is Dior’s parfum lingerie, the New Nude Look with a grège scent: the softness of “purple gray” orris and the creaminess of “apricot beige” white flowers. It is built on a similar idea with J’adore l’Or – an infinite smoothness of flowers melting into an abstract note,very distant from the figurative depiction of a flower or the representation of a specific bouquet. Like Chanel No5, this perfume is the abstraction of an imaginary feminine scent, it is that “je ne sais quoi”.

… [I]t is less the idea of a specific perfume type and more the concept of a presence, delicate and fragile. It is a skinscent, but not the musky type. It’s again a parfum lingerie that evokes the Dior 1947 backstage before the unique fashion show that changed the world of fashion for ever: soft shoulders, wasp waist, bosom padded for extra curve, hips that swelled and rustling skirts. We have here the scents of make up, lipstick, face powder, the scent of silk lingerie. [Emphasis in the original.]

"The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957" by Claire Wilcox. Available on Amazon.com

“The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957” by Claire Wilcox. Available on Amazon.com

I agree with him, for the most part. I think New Look 1947 is supposed to represent an abstraction, a compilation of femininity. I’m not sure about all the lingerie bits and, personally, I perceive the perfume representing the Dior ballgown as much as the silken slips, but I do think New Look 1947 represents the fundamental essence of the new fashion. Dior’s clothes in that Golden Age of haute design were all about an abstract idea of hyper-femininity in hues of dove grey, white, light iris-y blue and soft, dusty rose. People focus on the opulence, shape and size of the clothes with their yards of luxurious fabric, but the real key was the return to “fairytale” femininity after the bleakness of wartime and the government-imposed austerity of the postwar years. Abstract sheerness and amorphous tones of white, grey and lilac iris certainly make New Look 1947 part of the Dior tradition.

Ultimately, all of this is esoteric, unnecessary, intellectualism and wankery. The critics can argue about sheerness, symbolism and abstractism, but the bottom line is whether the perfume smells good, not whether it lives up to some marketing name. And it does smell good. If you like very sweet, airy, gauzy, florals with some powder and vanilla, then you really must try New Look 1947. Period.

It may be particularly ideal for those who like extremely unobtrusive perfumes. The soft sillage but good longevity makes it perfect for the office, but I think the perfume is extremely versatile as a whole. You must, however, like florals that are very sweet at first and, then, later, somewhat powdery. If you prefer more powerful fragrances, I think you may be disappointed. This is not a diva or statement perfume — not even remotely. Lastly, those with acute sensitivity to ISO E Super may want to skip this one; I have absolutely no doubt it’s there. The quantity of the aromachemical is extremely low, but anything may be too much for those who get headaches from it in any amount.

The general problem with New Look 1947 may be something else altogether: the size of the bottles. They are just enormous! The smallest bottle clocks in at 4.25 fl oz or 125 ml. Most perfumes start at 1.7 oz or 50 ml, going up to 3.4 oz or 100 ml in the large size. Dior’s largest bottle is an enormous 8.5 fl. oz or 450 ml! More than four times as large! Per ounce, they are far, far cheaper than most niche or exclusive-line perfumes. The “small” bottle costs $155, so that is approximately $36 an ounce — the general price of mass-market perfumes. The gigantic “large” 8.5 oz size costs $230 for $27 an ounce — far less than any perfume at Sephora or Macy’s! But, tell me seriously, how many people will ever finish an 8.5 oz bottle?! Who? It’s completely insane.

On the other hand, if you opt for their … er…  “small” size, you are getting more bang for your buck than with any other haute perfume on the market! Even more so if you order directly from a Dior boutique where, in the U.S. at least, there won’t be tax, will be free shipping and you’ll get tons of wonderful, free goodies. (See below for details.) And, by the standards of niche or haute perfumery (which, I grant you, are quite screwy), $155 is not hugely expensive even if the bottle were a regular size.

Bottom line for lovers of light florals: forget the name, lose all your expectations, and give New Look 1947 a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised.

DETAILS:
New Look 1947 is available exclusively at Dior boutiques or on Dior online. In the US, it is sold only at Dior’s Las Vegas boutique [call (702) 369-6072]. However, what I would do is to call this number instead — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She is an amazingly sweet lady who will give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. As noted above, the perfume comes in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $155, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $230. Though New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes, they don’t carry all of them because I think they rotate 6 at a time. I don’t know if New Look 1947 is one of the ones they carry.
Outside of the US: you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have New Look 1947 available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give New Look 1947 a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line, Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99.

Perfume Review – Dior Mitzah (La Collection Privée): A Worthy Tribute To Dior’s Muse

Beijing Lama Temple

Source: BeijingFeeling.com

The Buddhist temple was vast and ancient, but well-tended by its many yellow and red-robed monks. Its colours gleamed lacquered Chinese red and gold; vast, bronze dragons stood guard and snarled from odd corners; and the smell of incense was in the air. Enormous bronze vats filled with it, in fact; the many, brightly coloured sticks stuck in sand and billowing out heaps of smoke. It was a religious holiday, maybe even Buddha’s birthday, that cold day in November when I visited the Yonghe Lama temple monastery in the northern part of Beijing. Throngs of people filled in the vast courtyard, holding sticks of incense, bowing and praying, and monks were everywhere.

Lama Temple, Beijing. Source: George Oze, Flickr. (Click on the photo for the Oze page showing the photo in full, amazing size.)

Lama Temple, Beijing. Source: George Oze, Flickr. (For the Flickr link and his other amazing photos of China, click on the photo.)

Beijing incense burning on Buddha's birthday. Photo: Jason Lee/Reuters via the WSJ

Beijing incense burning on Buddha’s birthday. Photo: Jason Lee/Reuters via the WSJ

Smoke curled and swirled in the air, becoming almost a wall in its own right. One portly, bald, yellow-garbed monk smiled at me and I’m pretty sure he gently tilted his shaved head towards the large bronze urns filled with fiery logs, as if to tell me to light the sticks of incense in my hands and join the crowds of worshipers. I smiled back at him, then moved past him and the phalanxes of his gentle, smiling brothers, to join the crowds looking like ants before the most gigantic, amazing Buddhist statue I have ever seen.

Beijing and its stunning Lama temple filled with flowers and incense are what come to mind when I wear the absolutely enchanting, elegant Mitzah from Dior. It is from the fashion house’s La Collection Privée line of perfumes which are sometimes called elsewhere (like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance) La Collection Couturier. I’ll stick to Dior’s own name for the line which is exclusive to Dior boutiques (only one in the US, in Las Vegas) and to its website.  Dior’s La Collection Privée began with three perfumes but, in 2010, the company issued seven more fragrances — all intended to illustrate and celebrate the life of its founder, Christian Dior. Mitzah was one of them.

Mitzah Bricard. Original photo by Louise Dahl-Wolf. Source: Luxus.Welt.De

Mitzah Bricard. Original photo by Louise Dahl-Wolf. Source: Luxus.Welt.De

Right: Mitzah Bricard. Left: 2011 model for Dior's Mitzah makeup collection. Source: Beautylish.com

Right: Mitzah Bricard. Left: 2011 model for Dior’s Mitzah makeup collection. Source: Beautylish.com

The perfumes were created by Francois Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior, and his goal for Mitzah was to evoke Dior’s greatest muse, Mitzah Bricard. She was a socialite with a mysterious background who always wore something in a leopard print and whose personal style was a huge influence in Dior’s New Look creations and beyond. In fact, she became Dior’s chief stylist and advisor. Mitzah, the perfume, is meant to pay “tribute” both to her role in Dior’s creations and to Ms. Bricard herself as “an extremely sensual woman, with a divinely chic allure and captivating presence.”

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

According to the Australian Perfume Junkies, Mitzah is going to be discontinued next month, sometime in March 2013. If that is true, then it’s an enormous shame as Mitzah is an incredibly beautiful labdanum, incense and spiced rose oriental perfume whose richness comes with huge delicacy and a surprising airiness. My personal taste veers towards for the opulently opaque, the resinously heavy, the really baroque, or the ultra-feminine and, yet, there is something about this lightweight perfume that makes me actually want to buy one of the giant bottles (more on that later) right away, even if only to split it with friends.

[UPDATE – 3/2/2013: I just spoke with the Dior Beauty Stylist, Karina Lake, at the Dior Las Vegas boutique. The perfume is NOT being discontinued from either the Dior website or from actual free-standing Dior boutiques. She just returned from Paris and a training session at Dior Beauty; she is adamant that the perfume is permanent. It is, however, being removed temporarily from Dior shops in department stores, such as Neiman Marcus, Galleries Lafayette, and the like. Apparently, Dior rotates out 6 of their Privée fragrances at a time in such venues, to make way for others in the collection. That is what is happening to Mitzah. However, Mitzah will remain continuously on the website and at their actual shops.]

[Update as of 5/16/13: Dior seems to have changed their mind. The perfume IS being discontinued after all, along with Vetiver. You can read the full details here.]

The notes for Mitzah, as compiled from the Dior website and Fragrantica, are as follows:

Russian coriander, Damascena Rose, spices, Sri Lankan cinnamon, vanilla, honey, labdanum, Indonesian patchouli, Somali frankincense and incense.

Mitzah opens on my skin with rich, boozy resin and incense. The resin is unbelievably captivating, rich and sweet but, in an odd dichotomy, it’s very airy. There is a raisin-y rum feeling that is also surprisingly light, but note doesn’t last long. Underlying the rich amber are a fleet of other accords: honey; chewy, dark, slightly dirty patchouli; coriander that smells woody and nutty; dusty cinnamon; and a rich, beefy, dark damask rose.

Labdanum compiled into a chunk. Source: Fragrantica

Labdanum compiled into a chunk. Source: Fragrantica

There is almost a chocolate-y note from the combination of the spices, the patchouli, and the labdanum. The latter is extremely luxurious and extremely balsamic. You can almost picture tear drops of resin oozing out in dark, chocolate-y ambered hues. It’s slighty animalic, but not in a musky, skanky way. Rather, it’s like dark, molten, honeyed amber with the edge of something slightly more complex, masculine, and dirty.

It’s the oddest thing: none of this is heavy! Mitzah is almost like a gauzy veil. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a rich scent, but it’s not opaque and thick. It’s never overpowering, bullying, or brazen.

Mitzah Bricard.

Mitzah Bricard.

It’s probably a bit like what Mitzah Bricard was like herself. Judging from the photos, she was distinctively stylish, and never hesitant in being a strong, commanding presence. But she was always elegant and a lady about it. Mitzah, the perfume tribute, is much the same way. I confess I’m quite fascinated by how they made ingredients smell so rich and, yet, simultaneously, feel so airy.

Twenty minutes in, the incense and frankincense notes become stronger. So, too, do the spices acting in the background as supporting players. There is a definite feel of Chanel’s fabulous Coromandel to everything. Actually, to be specific, I keep imagining Coromandel, Serge Lutens’ Borneo 1934, and Arquiste’s Anima Dulcis in a three-way triangle. I think it’s because there is a very cinnamon-chocolate feel to Mitzah. It lacks the mentholated camphor of Borneo 1834, the white cocoa powder of Coromandel, and the more gourmand, bitter chocolate aspects of Anima Dulcis, but Mitzah has a definite kindred spirit tie to different aspects of each of those perfumes. For example; the patchouli-chocolate aspects of Borneo 1834; the labdanum, incense and frankincense of Coromandel; and the sweetness, cinnamon-chocolate, incense aspects of Anima Dulcis. All this with a fair greater lightness than should be expected from a scent with such rich notes as Mitzah.

China Incense - Don Daniele at 500px Com

Incense at a Buddhist Temple. Source: Don Daniele at 500px.Com

Clearly, none of this makes Mitzah a hugely original perfume. One might easily argue, however, that there really aren’t a lot of particularly original amber and incense perfumes anyway. At least, not incredibly wearable, comfortable scents. Dior was not seeking to create an avant-garde twist on resinous, smoky ambers but to make something elegant. It not only succeeded, but it also made something that is hugely versatile. I can see myself wearing Mitzah as much with jeans and a t-shirt, as with leather pants and stilettos, a little black dress, or a suit. It would work for the office, for a date, or for a night just curled up watching a movie. I’m utterly in love with this, and I’m sorely tempted to beg some friends to split a bottle with me! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A damask rose.

A damask rose.

An hour in, the frankincense (which, to my nose, is smokier and darker than incense) and the resinous labdanum become even richer and more concentrated. The deepening amber note takes on almost a caramel quality in its sweetness. The cinnamon also starts to make an appearance, adding a faintly dusty, nutty element. And then there is the rose. My heavens! One imagines the deepest, most blood-red, baroque roses have been plucked and reduced down to concentrated nectar for a note that is as full-blooded as this one. It’s never cloying; it’s nothing like a British tea rose; and it’s almost fiery in its sensuality. But, unfortunately, it is just merely a glimmer here and there, and I would have been far happier with a touch more of it.

One might argue that Mitzah is such a superbly blended perfume that all the notes blend into one, and it would certainly be true. This has been done absolutely beautifully. But one could also argue that it is quite a linear scent — and that would be true, too. It doesn’t morph into something different in any drastic way. It is predominantly a labdanum-frankincense perfume first, second and third — and all the rest of the notes are merely incidental additions that pop up only occasionally, and never in a way that truly competes with that ambered resin and smoky frankincense. That one vein carries through from the start to the finish of the perfume — and its strength certainly gives weight to the argument that it’s basically a one-trick perfume.

Perhaps. But damn, what a stunning trick it is. In its later stages, Mitzah turns into pure honeyed perfection — sweet but still subtly tinged with that smoke. There is depth to it from the sweetness of the labdanum, and it sometimes throws in a ghostly chocolate undertone to the mix as well. At the same time, there is also a hint of the vanilla, but it is not powdered as in the dry-down to Coromandel. 

All of this occurs with perfume that is not overpowering in its sillage. Not at all. In fact, I think the elegance, airiness and moderate (to low) sillage of Mitzah would make it perfect for those who want a discreet, sexy, smoky oriental that is never obvious. On me, the sillage was moderate to strong for the first twenty minutes, but it was hardly something that could be smelled across the room. Mitzah is far too airy to be overpowering; it’s like a silken gauze on your skin. After that, it became much closer to the skin. In fact, it became a bit too damn discreet for my personal liking! By the fourth hour, I had to somewhat forcefully inhale at my arm, and I think others would have to nuzzle your neck to get a good whiff of it.

It was also a bit too evanescent for my liking. There were faint traces of it during the sixth hour and it died entirely midway during the seventh, which is too short a period of time for my liking. Yet, this is one perfume that I would not hesitate to re-spray, despite my usual dislike of having to do that. I haven’t fully comprehended why I would make so many exceptions for Mitzah — but I would. Perhaps because it is so comfortable, while still being sexy. It feels like wearing the perfect, airy, silky-soft cashmere sweater with just the hint of a silky teddy underneath.

The real problem with Mitzah is not its sillage or longevity but something else entirely: the size of the bottles. They are just enormous! The smallest bottle clocks in at 4.25 fl oz or 125 ml. Most perfumes start at 1.7 oz or 50 ml, going up to 3.4 oz or 100 ml in the large size. Mitzah’s largest bottle is an enormous 8.5 fl. oz or 450 ml! More than four times as large!

Per ounce, they are far, far cheaper than most niche or exclusive-line perfumes. The “small” bottle costs $155, so that is approximately $36 an ounce — the price of mass-market perfumes. The gigantic “large” 8.5 oz size costs $230 for $27 an ounce — far less than any perfume at Sephora or Macy’s! But, tell me seriously, how many people will ever finish an 8.5 oz bottle?! Who? Even for someone like myself whose perfume-consuming skin would require frequent re-applications during Mitzah’s moderate-to-short duration, I can’t imagine anyone ever finishing the large bottle! On the other hand, the size makes it perfect for splitting among friends which, if the story about discontinuation is true, makes Mitzah incredibly tempting.

If you are a fan of smoky ambers and orientals, I urge you to order a sample of Mitzah as soon as you can from Surrender to Chance or the Perfumed Court. Then, find a friend and go in with them for a split. It’s worth it. Oh, is that labdanum and incense worth it!

[Update as of 5/16/13: Dior seems to have changed their mind. The perfume IS being discontinued after all, along with Vetiver. You can read the full details here.]

DETAILS:
Mitzah is available exclusively at Dior boutiques or on Dior online. In the US, it is sold only at Dior’s Las Vegas boutique [call (702) 369-6072]. However, what I would do is to call this number instead — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She will give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! As noted above, Mitzah comes in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $155, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $230. Though New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes, Mitzah is no longer available there.
Outside of the US, you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have Mitzah available for sale.
If you want to give Mitzah a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance which is where I obtained my vial. Prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line, Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99. Samples are also available at The Perfumed Court, but not at Luckyscent.