Roja Dove Fetish (Woman)

Succumb To Your Desires.

Fetish for women in pure parfum extrait.

Fetish for women in pure parfum extrait.

That is what Roja Dove tells you when he talks about Fetish, his line of chypre-leather fragrances. Yesterday, we explored the men’s version of Fetish Extrait, and, while it didn’t awaken any desires in me, I certainly concede that it is a leather scent. However, I’m wholly unconvinced on that matter when it comes to Fetish for Women (also in pure parfum Extrait form). There was nothing remotely leathered about this white floral chypre on my skin.

On his Roja Parfums website, after he’s ordered you to succumb to your desires, Roja Dove offers the following description for Fetish:

WARM, DRY, FRESH, SWEET, & LEATHERY

“Nothing is darker than leather in all its guises. Beware once you have entered there is no escape, as I have created a perfume that once under its spell there is no return”. Roja Dove

INGREDIENTS

TOP: Bergamot

HEART: Jasmine, Rose, Tuberose, Ylang Ylang

BASE: Castoreum, Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Clove, Galbanum, Musk, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Vetiver

Galbanum

Galbanum

Fetish for Women Extrait (hereinafter just “Fetish“) opens on my skin with galbanum sweetened by jasmine. It’s a combination of great crispness, freshness, and greenness, but without the usual pungent froideur, distance, and iciness that I typically find with galbanum. The ingredient’s sharp edge and unapproachability render it something that I often struggle with, but here, it’s very different. The jasmine adds a fragrant sweetness and warmth, while the galbanum keeps the usually indolic, sometimes heavy flower quite crisp, clean, and green. There is the faintest trickle of jasmine’s sweet syrupy nature lurking underneath, but it’s always kept in check and balance. 

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

On the heels of the two main notes is the oakmoss. It feels simultaneously pungent and mineralized, but also a wee bit plush, fresh, and lightly sweetened. In Fetish’s middle layer, hints of dry, woody vetiver and slightly sweet, green patchouli round out the tableau of variegated greens. The one exception to the colour spectrum are the flickers of aldehydic soapiness that dart about. In Fetish’s depths, there are elements of tuberose and extremely dry cedar. Even deeper below, the castoreum briefly stirs. Here, it thankfully lacks the animalic raunchiness or sweaty perianal parts prevalent in Fetish Pour Homme; instead, it merely feels like something velvety brown and soft in the base. A mere drop of animalism, if you will, instead of whole bucketfuls.

For the most part, however, Fetish for Women is primarily a triptych of jasmine, galbanum, and oakmoss on my skin. The degree of each note fluctuates in prominence and strength, but the perfume’s core essence never changes. Not once.

Source: dilei.it

Source: dilei.it

What happens instead is that Fetish goes through a small shrieking period. The galbanum becomes more forceful and incredibly sharp; so, too, does the oakmoss. Something about the two notes in tandem, along with that aldehydic soapiness, consistently creates an almost synthetic sharpness that I find abrasive. I tested Fetish three times, and there is always a brief 20-25 minute period when the jasmine retreats. The loss of its sweetness permits the galbanum’s inherently icy, sharp edge to come out, along with the more fusty, pungent aspects of the oakmoss. I don’t know to what extent the latter may be partially synthetic in nature, but the effect of the overall combination repeatedly causes a tightening sensation in my nose. It’s almost like something verging on sinus pains, but not quite.

"Evernia Prunastri" lichen moss. Source: via supermoss.com

“Evernia Prunastri” lichen moss. Source: via supermoss.com

I want to take a moment to briefly talk about that oakmoss which I suspect is mousse de chene. It is actually a specific type of oakmoss (Evernia prunastri) that is an oakmoss absolute according to The Aroma Connection blog, and, in some people’s eyes, seems to be considered the “true” oakmoss. It’s a grey lichen which grows on trees and has an intensely dank, pungent, fusty aroma that can also be salty and smell like tree bark. Still, “real” oakmoss of any type is largely banned out of perfume existence, and substitutes are often used, either by themselves or as complements to smaller portions of the real thing.

There is a very interesting, detailed, and somewhat technical discussion of the different types of oakmoss on The Aroma Connection, including the various synthetic versions or additives thereto:

we are left with a few synthetic oakmoss chemicals, such as Evernyl (methyl 2-4-dihydroxy-3-6-dimethylbenzoate) and formerly, the less popularly-utilised Orcinyl-3 (3-methoxy-5-methylphenol), which the hype from synthetic aroma chemical producers would try to persuade you ‘represent the essential character compound of oakmoss’.

… It should also be mentioned that a range of commercial oakmoss products exists, some offering a warm, leathery-mossy character, whilst others offer have woody, mossy – almost marine-like aspects.

Here, the oakmoss never has a leather aspect on my skin, but it does have an incredibly sharp character that occasionally smells a little salty and like the bark of a tree. There is a subtle smokiness, but it is mild and overwhelmed by the more pungent, almost acrid characteristics. More importantly for our purposes here, the oakmoss has an undertone that, to me, smells synthetic to me. I don’t react with the equivalent of a sinus headache or pinching otherwise, and it happened to me with both men and women’s versions of Fetish.

On all three occasions with Fetish Woman, the shrieking phase was brief, and never lasted beyond 20-25 minutes, ending about 50 minutes into the perfume’s evolution. Part of the reason why is because the jasmine returns in greater strength to counterbalance the green notes, tame them, and turn them into something less forceful. A Fragrantica commentator described Fetish Pour Homme as being very “shouty,” and I think Fetish for Women has a brief period of the same thing, despite being a considerably softer, tamer fragrance. Actually, “shouty” isn’t so accurate in this case, and a more apt description would be “unbalanced.” Regardless, it’s not a very long period, and Fetish soon calms down.

In fact, it turns a little too mellow and goes too much the opposite extreme. On each occasion where I tested Fetish, a little after one hour, the perfume dropped in sillage, hovered just an inch over the skin, and became a virtual blur of white florals with green notes and oakmoss. By the 90-minute mark, it’s a skin scent.

At times, the oakmoss turns so gentle and muted, it felt like the description that one reader emailed me about with regard to another very oakmossy, green fragrance: “green tea and honey.” To my surprise, the oakmoss in Fetish’s base might truly be described that way from afar. Something about the green accords has the soft, fragrant gentleness of green tea, albeit a very concentrated one that has been infused by a very delicate touch of sweet, white floral syrup. Unfortunately, the somewhat synthetic elements remains, lurking far below, and whenever I take whiffs that are too forceful of my arm, the sharp tightening in my nose returns instantly.

Source: bioloskiblog.wordpress.com

Source: bioloskiblog.wordpress.com

There really isn’t much more to be said about Fetish’s development on my skin. It remains as a blur of white florals atop a chypre base. For a brief period, the jasmine and oakmoss are vaguely distinguishable in their own right, but the notes are generally a haze, overlapping each other, and rarely having any definitive, firm shape. In its final moments, Fetish is merely a nebulous floral smear with something vaguely green about it. All in all, it lasted just over 7.5 hours with 2 large sprays, and a little under 9 hours with double that amount.

I liked Fetish for the most part, but what manifested itself on my skin was also a big disappointment. If I hadn’t been told that this was a “leather” fragrance, I never once would have guessed it. For me, Fetish is exactly and precisely the “floral chypre” that Fragrantica classifies it as on their site. My skin always amplifies base notes, and that includes leather, yet none showed up in any of my 3 tests of the perfume. I was also a little taken aback by the lack of complexity, nuance, and body of the largely simplistic scent that appeared on my skin. Fetish was a perfectly nice — even occasionally lovely — white floral perfume, but nothing more. I’d still enjoy wearing it, however, were it not for the synthetic feel in the base and the fact that it consistently became a skin scent on me between the 60-90 minute range (depending on quantity). For $425 or €395, I expect more. A lot more.

On Fragrantica, the only review for Fetish Woman in extrait version comes from Dubaiscents, a reader and a friend who loves the fragrance. She describes it as “both elegant and feminine but, also tough and a little dirty. One of my all time favorite leather scents!” It sounds infinitely more interesting on her skin than on mine, and I envy her her complex experience. If I had experienced some grit, some toughness, something other than linear two-dimensionality, then perhaps I wouldn’t have been so bored. As it is, I’ve struggled to write this review from sheer lack of inspiration, enthusiasm, and interest. In fact, Fetish bores me so much that I will end this here and now.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: The Fetish for Women Pure Parfum is available in a 50 ml/1.7 oz size which costs $435, €395 or £345. In the U.S.: Fetish is available at New York’s Osswald. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, you can buy Fetish directly from Roja Dove at his Haute Parfumerie on the 5th Floor of Harrods London. Roja Dove also has an e-store at Roja Parfums for his personal line of fragrances, and he sells Fetish Extrait for £345. In France, Jovoy Paris seems to be the exclusive distributor for Roja Dove fragrances, and sells Fetish in both the Extrait and Eau de Parfum versions. (The Homme EDP costs €265.) In the UAE, the Paris Gallery carries the whole Roja Parfums line and sells the women’s Fetish Extrait for AED 2,050. Samples: I obtained my sample from Jovoy in Paris. If you’re in the U.S., you can test Fetish Homme in the Extrait version by ordering samples by phone from OsswaldNY. They offer a deal of 10 samples for $10 (shipping included) for domestic customers. Their phone number is: (212) 625-3111. As for Surrender to Chance, it only carries Fetish in the men’s EDP version, but doesn’t offer any version of the women’s fragrance. So, your best bet is really ordering a sample from OsswaldNY.

Roja Dove Fetish Pour Homme

Roja Dove. Source: The Glass Magazine.

Roja Dove. Source: The Glass Magazine.

Roja Dove is an enormously respected, admired Master Perfumer, in addition to being a fragrance historian with an appreciation for the grand, classical tradition of haute perfumery. I had the opportunity to try a few of his fragrances at Paris’ Jovoy, and was struck by his Fetish line which was released in 2012. The scents come in both a men and women’s version, with each one then broken down further into an eau de parfum and extrait (or pure parfum) concentration. This review is for Fetish Pour Homme in extrait form.

Source: Roja Parfums website.

Source: Roja Parfums website.

Osswald Parfumerie quotes Roja Dove’s description of the scent:

“Succumb To Your Desires”. Warm, Dry, Sweet, Spicy, Leathery, & Very Sensual. “Leather can be so compulsive that for many it becomes a type of fetish. I then thought of leather in a man’s world. I thought of the soft sensuality of it against the skin, and the timeless appeal of a successful, masculine man and the things he surrounds himself with. Beware, as I have created a perfume that once under its spell there is no return”. Roja Dove

According to Roja Parfums, Fetish Pour Homme (hereinafter just “Fetish“) includes:

TOP: Bergamot, Lemon, Lime

HEART: Fig, Jasmine, Neroli, Violet

BASE: Ambergris, Benzoin, Cardamom, Castoreum, Cinnamon, Elemi, Labdanum, Leather, Musk, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Pepper, Pink Pepper, Vanilla, Vetiver.

Source: leatherchairs.co.uk

Source: leatherchairs.co.uk

Fetish opens on my skin with crisp lime and zesty, clean, slightly soapy citric notes followed immediately by contrasting animalism from pungent, brown, musky castoreum. The latter has an oily feel that is also plush, velvety, and slightly sweet. It is leathery, but leather in its own right soon appears. It has a slightly raw, rubbery facet, but it also feels very aged and burnished. It is heavily infused by cardamom that is nutty and dusty.

In essence, Fetish’s initial bouquet is of a very expensive leather sofa in a gentlemen’s club that has been cleaned with a sharp, waxy, slightly soapy and very bitter lime peel oil, then further oiled by musky, animalic castoreum, before being finished off by a heavy sprinkling of sweet cardamom that was taken from the bottom of a very dusty spice drawer. It’s all spice, bitter lime, sweetness, dust, muskiness, and animal secretions over aged leather — and it’s quite a discordant jolt to my nose.

I struggle with Fetish’s opening sharpness which I find hard to blame on any one, single note. The accords have combined to create enormous bitterness that is one part pungent green, one part smoky tar, and three parts animal. I suspect the oakmoss, smoky elemi wood, leathery fig, dry vetiver, and bitter lime are also partially responsible for a combination that feels as though raw animal hides have been tarred by the most bitter distillation. The fusty, mineralized, almost fossilized, dusty oakmoss and lime peel oil are joined by what seems like bucketfuls of castoreum.

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

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

Fetish’s increasingly powerful animalism takes on nuances that aren’t easy for me to bear. Forgive my forthcoming rudeness, but there is no other way for me to describe how the castoreum smells here except to say that it repeatedly reminds me of sweaty anus with a dash of dried urine on genitalia. There is also a sub-tone of fur to the musk, which brings back memories of a sick, elderly German Shepherd Dog that I had with some bowel problems. I never had problems with Serge LutensMusc Kublai Khan, a fragrance that has been described in the most explicit of terms, but Fetish? Fetish is tough, and it evokes all the things that others seem to have encountered in the Lutens fragrance. When that leathered, animalic side is mixed with the oakmoss-lime duo, the final result is one that I found painfully abrasive for the first 10 minutes.

Castoreum, a secretion derived from beaver anal gland sacs.

Castoreum, a secretion derived from beaver anal gland sacs.

Fetish softens a fraction thereafter, losing a minute portion of its musky, anus-like, castoreum aggressiveness. What’s left behind is a bitter, pungent, lime-infused, leathered muskiness that is very oily at its core. The cardamom, subtle tinges of soap, and smoky woods stand close by, on the sidelines, and are soon joined by the arrival of sweetened amber and patchouli. They turn the leather into something slightly gentler, more rounded, and richer.

Fetish continues to subtly change. Twenty minutes in, it is a leather chypre with contrasting undertones of green, mossy bitterness, clean soap, and oily castoreum body parts. The smoky, tarry, phenolic aspects slowly grow stronger, mixing with the very sharp, almost synthetic-smelling soapiness to create a combination that is as much a problem for me as the castoreum-oakmoss pairing. In all honesty, I am not a fan of a single part of Fetish’s opening moments, and find Roja Dove’s earlier leather-chypre creation, the famous Puredistance M, to be a smoother, better balanced, less aggressive, more refined, and infinitely easier fragrance. At the end of the first hour, a dark chocolate aroma begins to become noticeable, undoubtedly from the patchouli mixed with the dark, nutty, toffee elements of the labdanum amber. It would be enjoyable if Fetish weren’t also wafting huge amounts of bitter lime peel oil and fusty oakmoss at the same time.

Early into the third hour, other elements become noticeable. There are tiny hints of violet, neroli and jasmine that pop up in the background, but they are extremely faint and minor. Much more pronounced is the tarry undertone to the leather which feels almost burnt on occasion. The smoky elements may be from the elemi wood, but whatever the source, there is a disagreeably sharp, almost abrasive touch that lingers under the top bouquet of leather, oakmoss, and patchouli-amber.

Source: caffiendsvictoria.com

Source: caffiendsvictoria.com

Things only improve for me at the start of the 4th hour when Fetish finally turns soft, mellow, smooth and attractive. It is now an ambered leather with a well-balanced amount of chypre-y moss. There is an additional, quite unusual, undertone as well: the labdanum, patchouli and castoreum have somehow melded together to create a distinctly coffee-dark chocolate aroma. It’s delicious, neither particularly sweet, nor particularly bitter. Fetish’s sillage is soft as well, hovering right on the skin, though it is easily detectable if sniffed up close.

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Fetish continues to lose its moss, smoke, and bitterness, turning into a beautiful amber at the 5.25 hour mark with richly burnished, aged, smooth leather, a light dose of spices, and warmth. It has a touch of dark-chocolate caramel from the labdanum-patchouli, along with saltiness from the ambergris. As time passes, Fetish turns almost entirely ambered, taking on an actual cognac aroma along with that hint of dark, dry, bitter chocolate and leather. It’s lovely, and addictive to sniff. The cognac-amber phase continues to the very end when Fetish finally fades away in a blur of golden warmth and sweetness. All in all, it lasted 11.25 hours on me, with initially moderate sillage that dropped about 90 minutes in to hover about 2 inches above the skin. It became a skin scent on me by the end of the fourth hour, but it continued to be easy to detect if you brought your nose to your arm until the end of the seventh hour.

There aren’t many detailed blog reviews of Fetish Pour Homme in Extrait form, but the lone comment on Fragrantica is for the pure parfum version. It’s too lengthy to quote in full here, but the poster, “deadidol,” seems to have had an experience similar to mine and, like me, much preferred Puredistance M. His review begins with talk about the “chypre bitterness” which dominates the scent, followed by “a faint soapiness.” After that,

[a] bulky castoreum, sprinkled with cinnamon, hums along underneath, and I get a gourmand texture that I believe might be patchouli. It’s massive scent, with a lot of individual components at work, yet oddly, I’m not getting that much leather from it—or at least not as much as I expected.

It settles into a scratchy cardamom musk over bronzed resins that come across as a touch candied, yet the tart, bitter notes remain as a reminder of the citric opening as it begins to fade. The whole thing winds down to a very tasteful vanilla musk that manages to sidestep predictability through the residual bitterness that reads as touch mentholated.

This has a wide profile: it’s a very loud and prominent composition which, like its infamous sibling M, is extremely tenacious. […][¶] For me, M keeps the gold medal out of the two, but that’s mainly because Fetish is playing a deck that I’m personally not that drawn to. There are several notes in this that don’t sit right with me, but they sit perfectly within the composition itself, and certainly within its genre. Objectively speaking, it’s an impressive scent although perhaps a tad too shouty; but subjectively, it’s not quite my cup of tea.

His last paragraph encapsulates my views down to a T. Fetish Extrait is well done, but it is also extremely “shouty” in my view, with discordant, sharp, abrasive elements that aren’t my personal cup of tea.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Elsewhere, Basenotes has a whole thread to Fetish, but it focuses almost entirely on the Eau de Parfum which most people conclude (again) is extremely similar to Puredistance M, but dirtier, darker, and not quite as nice. I’ve included the link here because there is quite a difference in price between the Eau de Parfum and the Extrait (which is $425 or €395), and so the former may be of greater interest. Some people talk about the Spanish leather and the animalic base in the Eau de parfum, which I can only assume have been ratcheted up a lot in the Extrait judging by what appeared on my skin. Others mention some problems with longevity and projection.

Puredistance M in its various flacons.

Puredistance M in its various flacons.

As regular readers know, Puredistance M is one of my favorite fragrances, but I don’t see it as being a pure leather. I actually see it as being a hardcore Oriental instead. I don’t think Fetish Pour Homme Extrait is a pure leather fragrance either, but it’s definitely much more of one than the M in my view, as well as being more of a chypre. For me, the intensity of the skanky, oily castoreum, along with the pungency and bitterness of the green elements, and the duration of the tarry, phenolic leather stage make the Extrait quite different from Puredistance M. I thought the latter had a much smoother, more balanced chypre opening, with a short leather phase that never felt skanky, dirty, raw, or tarred. When M takes on its main amber oriental characteristics, it not only does so sooner than Fetish, but its notes are profoundly richer, deeper, more molten, and heavy that the amber drydown in the Fetish Pour Homme Extrait. M is never “shouty.” It’s always smooth and refined, and it feels much richer.

As you can tell, I prefer M a thousand times over, but if you’re looking for something with a much stronger leather characteristic, with truly tarry, at times raw, and intense Spanish leather, accompanied by serious chypre elements and some aggressively musky, animalic skank, then Fetish Pour Homme Extrait might be your cup of tea.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: The Fetish Pour Homme Extrait or Pure Parfum is available in a 50 ml/1.7 oz size which costs $435, €395 or £345. In the U.S.: Fetish Pour Homme Extrait is available at New York’s Osswald. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, you can buy Fetish directly from Roja Dove at his Haute Parfumerie on the 5th Floor of Harrods London. Roja Dove also has an e-store at Roja Parfums for his personal line of fragrances, and he sells Fetish Extrait for £345. In France, Jovoy Paris seems to be the exclusive distributor for Roja Dove fragrances, and sells Fetish Homme in both the Extrait and Eau de Parfum versions. (The Homme EDP costs €265.) In the UAE, the Paris Gallery carries the whole Roja Parfums line and sells Fetish Pour Homme Extrait for AED 2,050. Samples: I obtained my sample from Jovoy in Paris. If you’re in the U.S., you can test Fetish Homme in the Extrait version by ordering samples by phone from OsswaldNY. They offer a deal of 10 samples for $10 (shipping included) for domestic customers. Their phone number is: (212) 625-3111. In addition, Surrender to Chance carries Fetish Homme in the EDP version starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.