LM Parfums Patchouly Bohème

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

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

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

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

Source: emporium.az

Source: emporium.az

LM Parfums describes Patchouly Boheme and its notes as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: taste.com.au

Source: taste.com.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo:  Patricia Bieszk. Source: theadventourist.com

Photo: Patricia Bieszk. Source: theadventourist.com

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

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

Source: foodgawker.com

Source: foodgawker.com

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

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

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

Source: freehdw.com

Source: freehdw.com

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

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

Source: colourbox.com

Source: colourbox.com

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

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

Dried Indonesian patchouli leaves via Dior.com.

Dried Indonesian patchouli leaves via Dior.com.

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

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

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

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

Another commentator writes:

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

The best from this house.

Longevity is more than 12 hours and sillage is strong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: pixabay.com

Source: pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LM Parfums Black Oud

The darkness of incense and an extremely refined oud, speckled with red-brown, earthy, and fiery spices. A deep woodiness that is soon married with a purple liqueured richness, before its sweetness eventually turns drier. Bold richness that moves into an intimate, gauzy whisper. Those are some of the different aspects of Black Oud from LM Parfums.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

Black Oud is a pure parfum extrait that was released in 2012. LM Parfums describes the perfume and its notes as follows:

«Blend into the middle of a black and white tainted forest, be in the most obscure darkness, to deliver the fragrance of Oud.» This is my wish to take you into the depth of Indonesia.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

The subtlety of the Oud fragrances, mixed to cistus gum, wrapped with nutmeg, caraway, and incense, this generous fragrance brings in its wake cedar, amber and sandalwood, embellished with a touch of musk.

Top Notes: Nutmeg, Cumin, Incense.
Heart Notes: Oud Wood, Labdamum.
Base Notes: sandalwood, Cedar, Civet, Castoreum, Vanilla, Amber.

Source: wallpaperup.com

Source: wallpaperup.com

Black Oud opens on my skin with a darkness quite worthy of its name. I’m surprised by that, since so many perfumes labelled “Noir” or “Black” don’t actually convey that sense or impression to me. Black Oud does — at least in its opening minutes. There is a burst of beautifully refined, high-quality agarwood that is thoroughly infused with a spicy, peppered sweetness. There is dusty, vaguely earthy cumin, but also the fiery bite of what feels like red, pimento chilis. A rich, very darkly resinous stickiness follows moments later, along with what feels distinctly like a jammy patchouli note. It completely throws me off, as nothing in the notes indicates patchouli, but that is what I smell. It’s a deeply purpled, velvety, liqueured richness with a vaguely fruited aspect. 

I love Black Oud’s opening. The spices are the key, adding a great depth to the smooth, refined oud. They are dusty, dusky, and dry, but never sweaty. I don’t smell the nutmeg at all on my skin, but the cumin is really lovely. For all its spiced dryness, it also smells oddly fresh in a way, and something about it evokes rye bread more than anything curried, sweaty or stale. The whole bouquet is wrapped up with a thick ribbon of billowing, black frankincense, but it is blended so seamlessly into the notes that it’s more of an overall feel of darkness than a sharp, easily delineated note.

Black in bottle, non-travel form.

Black in bottle, non-travel form.

I’ve worn Black Oud a number of times, and on each occasion in the opening minutes, my initial impression is always the same thing: a much better, more refined, drier Puredistance Black. (Puredistance insists on typing it as BLACK, but I refuse.) Black Oud was released in 2012; Puredistance’s Black in summer of 2013. They are both Extrait perfumes with spices, incense, oud, and a liqueured patchouli sweetness, though Puredistance refuses to release its exact notes for the fragrance and Black has a definite floral component. I was the only blogger out of the first lot who initially reviewed Black to say that I didn’t like it, and I received a bit of flack for it. Well, I stand by my opinion, as I still don’t like Black.

Source: quotes-pictures.feedio.net

Source: quotes-pictures.feedio.net

In the opening moments, Black Oud blows the Puredistance scent out of the water. It’s much smoother, more refined, and deeper. Unlike the Puredistance scent, the overall effect of one actually feels black in mood, perhaps because Black Oud is much smokier, drier, less unctuously sweet, and more spiced. The jammy, purple, fruit-chouli aroma is much more subtle in Black Oud’s opening phase, while the incense is much more profound. In addition, the oud note feels more luxuriously smooth and expensive. However, as we will soon see, the early differences soon fade, and I’m afraid Black Oud becomes a lot closer to Puredistance Black in nature. Several of the things in Puredistance Black that I struggled with manifest themselves here, to the point where I wonder if Antoine Lie made LM Parfums’ Black Oud a year before he made the significantly more expensive (and over-priced) Puredistance Black.

Mysore sandalwood cross-section. Source: vk.com

Mysore sandalwood cross-section. Source: vk.com

It takes very little time for Black Oud to start to evolve. Exactly 5 minutes into Black Oud’s development, the sandalwood peaks up its head. It’s muted at first, but it’s a lovely, subtle touch of spicy, creamy, smoky red-gold woodiness that feels like real Mysore wood. Laurent Mazzone has shown his willingness with the spectacular Hard Leather to spend any amount of money on the genuine Mysore wood, no matter how costly the rare ingredient may be, and I think he must have insisted on the real thing for Black Oud as well.

A few minutes later, other changes occur. The cumin starts to slowly melt into the other notes, creating a more abstract sense of “spiciness” instead of a distinct, individual cumin note. The sandalwood grows stronger, while the labdanum suddenly starts to stir. It’s got a deliciously toffee’d, vaguely dirty, almost chocolate-y undertone. Yet, Black Oud is never skanky, raunchy, urinous or dirty in any way on my skin. I never detect the civet, castoreum, or nutmeg, though there is a subtle muskiness and earthiness that creeps in towards the end of the perfume’s development.

As a whole, Black Oud in the opening half-hour is a very smooth, delicately spiced, liqueured, black-purple oud scent that is infused heavily with smoky incense and that inexplicable jammy element, then lightly flecked with Mysore sandalwood and labdanum amber. While LM Parfums’ Hard Leather is a lusty, “skanky” take on leather, incense, oud, and sandalwood, Black Oud is the sweeter, non-animalic, more purely oud and incense sibling. Every single one of its elements feels rich, seamless, and luxuriously refined, but the whole thing is also very gauzy in feel. Surprisingly so for an Extrait concentration.

"Purple Velvet Gold Flakes" by *Will3style at Deviantart.com. http://will3style.deviantart.com/art/Purple-Velvet-Gold-Flakes-258099755

“Purple Velvet Gold Flakes” by *Will3style at Deviantart.com. http://will3style.deviantart.com/art/Purple-Velvet-Gold-Flakes-258099755

Black Oud slowly turns sweeter, as the liqueured, fruited, patchouli-like jamminess grows stronger. Unfortunately for me, there is the first twinge of something aroma-chemical that stirs in the base. I’m not a fan of it, though it’s thankfully subtle and muted at this point. What is much prettier, however, is the cumin which adds a dry, almost herbal, green-brown spiciness to the base.

At the start of the 2nd hour, the aroma-chemical in the base turns into one of the main notes. It smells like some sort of very arid, “amber” substitute, but also very woody, harsh and, to my nose, jangly with its sharp edges. I don’t like it one bit, though I realise that I have a sensitivity to aromachemicals, and that the vast majority of people can’t detect them. At least the dryness of the note (whatever it is) helps to cut through some of Black Oud’s increasing sweetness, though the jammy liqueur is still very prominent. The incense retreats to the sidelines, along with the spiciness, while the sandalwood slowly starts to fade away.

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

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

Black Oud also turns thinner and sheerer, with sillage that now projects only about an inch above the skin. By the 1.75 hour mark, the perfume is a gauzy thin blur of refined oud, the excessively dry aromachemical, incense smokiness, and the jammy fruitchouli note. There is a subtle nuance of something vaguely herbal and earthy in the base, but the overall impression is of a non-floral, woodier, drier version of Puredistance Black.

Black Oud remains largely unchanged for the next few hours. Thankfully, the harsh aromachemical note disappears by the end of the 3rd hour, and my mood improves. By the middle of the 4th hour, Black Oud is a skin scent that slowly turns drier and woodier. It’s a sheer, very pretty blend of vaguely oud-y woodiness and sweetness with tiny, subtle flickers of smokiness, earthiness, and something vaguely herbal lurking at the edges. Around the 7th hour, a touch of beeswax appears, undoubtedly from the labdanum, and a growing element of muskiness.

Source: hotguyscollection.com

Source: hotguyscollection.com

In its final hours, Black Oud also takes on sexy muskiness that has a tobacco-like undertone and a velvety earthiness that almost feels mushroom-y at times. I suspect it stems from the castoreum. As a whole, though, Black Oud’s drydown is generally just abstract woodiness with a touch of sweetness and dryness blended within. Something about it is quite seductive. Call me crazy, but this is what I imagine Tom Ford to smell like. Sweet, dry, woody muskiness with a touch of the scent of a man’s warm skin, all wrapped in a very refined, understated bouquet. Yes, I know Tom Ford is the least “under-stated” person around, but he is what I think of when I smell Black Oud’s drydown: open-shirted, bare-chested and revealing skin that carries the discreet musky sweetness of Black Oud.

As noted earlier, Black Oud is an extrait or pure parfum. It doesn’t feel like it on my skin, I’m afraid. On a few occasions when I’ve worn it, I was surprised by how quickly it faded. Two decent-sized sprays gave me between 9 and 9.75 hours in duration, but the perfume consistently became a skin scent at the start of the 3rd hour. I frequently thought that it had vanished by the end of the 5th hour, but, no, Black Oud definitely lingered, and was noticeable when I put my nose directly on my skin and smelled very hard. With 3 big sprays, Black Oud lasted a good 12 hours on my skin, but, again, it was extremely discreet.

A number of LM Parfums start strongly and then become much more intimate, as that seems to be part of the brand’s overall aesthetic. The gorgeous Sensual Orchid is one example, where the opulent, bold, narcotic sensuality slowly turns into something more romantically discreet, as though it were olfactory lingerie. I am starting to have the impression that Laurent Mazzone might feel that a subtler suggestion is better for his bolder, richer aromas, the new Hard Leather excepted. So, when seen in that light, perhaps Black Oud’s softness and subtlety makes sense, but I was still taken aback. It really didn’t feel like an Extrait on my skin, and its wispiness was another thing that made me think of the intentionally “whispering” Puredistance Black.

While I have extremely wonky, perfume-consuming skin, I’m apparently not alone on the issue of Black Oud’s subtlety and limited projection. On Fragrantica, two other people felt the same way, though their overall assessment for the fragrance was very positive. For example:

If Valentino ever produced an OUD based fragrance it would smell something like this.

Romantic and Deep are the key words here. A rich mix of delicate spices and oud emphasizing the intricate balance between eastern and western perfumery. Smooth pristine and dressed up.

It isn’t loud by any means. In fact I think it is a sleeper that will wake up at unexpected moments. It is however very durable.

Leave it on for a while before you try to decipher it….it’s one of those. […][¶]

EDIT :
Been wearing this for a full day now. I hate to say it but this has nothing to do with an Extrait as far as projection goes. […] EDIT : TWO Days later. I share the same feelings still. Nice *subtle* romantic oud scent that lasts a good amount of time as a skin scent with just minimal projection. [¶] DEFINITELY not one of the stronger Extraits/Parfums that I have sampled but what can you expect for $225 100ml Extrait.

Others agree on the romantic, refined nature of Black Oud, including a woman commentator who offers up the first review below:

  • This perfume is a dream come true : when I wear it,I have the feeling that I smell a mysterious lover’s smell (a latin one, of course !)on my skin all day long! Very erotic ! Wonderful ! You’ll feel very sexy while wearing it (for men or women.)
  • very amazing perfume and it’s like Black Afgano but with more Oud and more sillage .. [¶] I love this perfume[.] [Emphasis to name added by me.]

On Basenotes, there are 3 reviews for Black Oud, 2 of which are positive and one is a mere “neutral.” Their views, in part or in full, are as follows:

  • Simple comfort to wear animalic oud scent.
  • It starts quite alcoholic and spiced , with a soft frankincense. Then it develops to a sweet-rosey oud .Finally it dries down towards a kind of animalic sandalwood . [¶] This reminds me of L’Air du Desert Marocain with a touch of oud .This is not dark nor black . [¶] Longevity is regular , taking into account that this is an extract of parfum . [¶] Over-priced for what it is , 200 eur . [Emphasis to name added by me.]
  • Wonderfully smooth and powerful scent [….][¶] I love it, it isn’t too powerful, very “smooth” as someone else mentioned, and it is really just what I was looking for, a sensual date scent. […]
Source: HDwallpapers.

Source: HDwallpapers.

One perfume blogger who isn’t a fan of agarwood wrote that Black Oud was the first scent with the note that she liked. The site, Esperanza Van Der Zon, wrote, in part:

Black Oud became the first oud perfume I really liked. It is a very well blended oud extrait with rich wood and incense elements. The oud is not dominating the perfume but part of the whole composition like a primus inter pares, equal amongst the other notes. It is hard to detect individual notes as they are very well blended. But I do detect rich frankincense lingering at the beginning, followed by warm dark woods to continue to labdanum and golden oud. The extrait changes its scent showing some different aspects at first but does not change very much during the day on my skin. What remains is a warm wooden resinous drydown, modern, strong, very present and with a little edge. Compared to a texture it would be soft black wool, still a bit tingling when you touch it. […][¶]

Although the Black Oud is an extrait (pure perfume), its sillage is enormous, one spitz is enough for a whole day. Some called Black Oud a sillage monster. I would say this extrait is for true sillage lovers or people who do not like to reapply during the day. You can still scent Black Oud after 24 hours so have some caution when applying !

Her sillage and longevity experiences are obviously quite different from what I or some of the Fragrantica people experienced, so skin chemistry is clearly key. What I found interesting about her review is how taken she was by Black Oud. Even though she found the perfume a “bit too masculine” by her standards, she said she would still buy a full bottle if it were cheaper:

There are cold days I really enjoy wearing Black Oud. It is a pity it only comes in 100 ml bottles for about 200 euro. If it was sold in smaller bottles I would have bought a full bottle some time ago.

That’s quite an endorsement from someone who says bluntly that she does “not like oud very much.”

Speaking of prices, Black Oud costs $225 or €195 for the 100 ml bottle. It may not be cheap, but it is substantially less expensive than Puredistance Black which costs almost $600 for a similar 100 ml size. (Both are Extrait fragrances, so their prices can definitely be compared on an equal basis.)

Source: 8tracks.com

Source: 8tracks.com

Black Oud is a much better value than the Black, and a better fragrance as a whole, in my opinion, because it feels much more refined. The oud smells more luxurious and smoother, and the perfume lacks the annoying rose-fruitchouli singularity of Puredistance Black. The latter ended up making me think of pinks and purples, fluffy clouds, and Turkish delight. It was not “Black,” let alone very smoky or woody on my skin. In fact, it smelled significantly aromachemical in nature, and was much more generic in profile, two reasons why I think Puredistance Black is badly over-hyped and over-priced for what it is.

Black Oud, on the other hand, seems darker, smokier, woodier, and drier. The opening 30 minutes are really fantastic, and the drydown is both pretty and quite sexy. The middle stage, alas, didn’t thrill me at all; I don’t like whatever amber aromachemical was used in the base, and the liqueured sweetness of Black Oud was a bit difficult for me as a whole. I’m also not enthused by the discreet, intimate sillage. However, at the end of the day, all of those things are a matter of personal tastes and skin chemistry. Black Oud isn’t very me, but I can respect it (minus that aromachemical bit) and I can completely see why people find it to be a beautifully blended oud fragrance. Puredistance Black, on the other hand, just leaves me scratching my head. At best.

In short, if you’re looking for a refined, approachable oud scent with sweetness, incense, and dryness, you may want to give Black Oud a sniff.

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

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Black Oud is pure parfum extrait that is available only in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle which costs $225 or €195. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances are sold exclusively at Osswald NYC. If, at some point in the future, you don’t see Black Oud listed at that link, it’s because Osswald takes down a perfume’s page when they’re temporarily out-of-stock, then puts it back up later. Outside the U.S.: you can buy Black Oud directly from LM Parfums. In addition, they offer large decant samples of all LM Parfums extraits which are priced at €19 for 5 ml size. LM Parfums also owns Premiere Avenue which sells both Black Oud and the 5 ml decant. It ships worldwide. In the UK, the LM Parfums line is exclusive to Harvey Nichols. In Paris, LM Parfums are sold at Jovoy. In the Netherlands, you can find Black Oud at ParfuMaria. The LM Parfums line is also available at Silks Cosmetics. In Germany, First in Fragrance carries the full line, and sells samples as well. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Middle East, I found most of the LM Parfums line at the UAE’s Souq perfume site. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well. Samples: A number of the sites listed above sell samples. In the U.S., none of the decanting sites carry LM Parfums, but you can call Osswald NYC at (212) 625-3111 to order samples. They have a special phone deal for U.S. customers where 10 samples of any 10 fragrances in 1 ml vials is $10 with free shipping. However, they are currently out of vials until mid-March.

LM Parfums Giveaway: Hard Leather

I’m incredibly excited to announce that LM Parfums has generously offered a really huge giveaway of ten (10!) prizes. Ten winners will each get one 5 ml glass decant of Hard Leather, the perfume I fell for so hard last year and which I put as #1 on my list of Best of 2013. It is also ranked #1 on my list of Favorite Perfumes from all current, non-vintage fragrances on the market. For reasons explained below, I’m afraid this giveaway is for U.S. readers only.

HARD LEATHER:

Hard Leather in the 100 ml bottle.

Hard Leather in the 100 ml bottle.

I loved Hard Leather from the very first instant that I smelled it. It was immediate, automatic, and visceral, with the sort of reaction I haven’t felt in years. I’m rather aloof in public or with people who I don’t know well, but, as I wrote in this story of meeting Laurent Mazzone, the founder of LM Parfums, his Hard Leather made me completely lose my crackers in public, and in one of the most constipatedly snobbish, haughty places in Paris. So, what does it smell like? You can read my detailed review, but the short list of Hard Leather’s notes may help in the meantime:

Rum, Leather, Iris, Honey, Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Oud, Frankincense, Styrax and Vanilla.

Source: 123people.es

Source: 123people.es

For me, Hard Leather is as much about the lusty animalic aspects and the dark woods as it is about the actual leather. It has very expensive aged Laotian oud, but the true beauty is the massive amounts of very genuine Mysore sandalwood. Regular readers know how I consistently go through modern “sandalwood” fragrances with a curled lip, and a dismissive “not real Mysore” response. Infact, one reader has vowed to get me a t-shirt with the words “Sandalwood Snob” on it, and I would wear it gladly. But Hard Leather has the real stuff.

The use of such a rare ingredient in such vast amounts makes complete sense when you meet Laurent Mazzone. He is a man who began his career in fashion, loves opulence, has the highest standards for everything he does, and is intensely passionate about his perfumes. He wants to his fragrances to be a luxury in a way that harkens to the golden time of perfumery through the use of the richest ingredients possible, only done with a nod to modern tastes. He talks of the legendary Guerlains with love, but he is far too aware of current fashions to create something dated or old-fashioned in feel. He always goes for the best, from his choice of the Hotel Costes for us to meet, to asking his friend, the late Mona di Orio, to create one of his fragrances, or insisting on the most expensive raw materials from Robertet. (They are a fragrance ingredient company known for the highest quality naturals, and whose focus is on “cultivating the real thing.” Mr. Mazzone would expect nothing less.)

Source: Tumblr. Original source or photographer unknown.

Source: Tumblr. Original source or photographer unknown.

yet, for all its refined, sexy lustiness and opulent Mysore sandalwood, Hard Leather is not for everyone. It is dark, animalic, musky, slightly raunchy, smoky, and skews very masculine. I happen to think that it is the most refined take possible on animalic leather, but how you fare will depend strongly on skin chemistry. For the lucky ones, like one or two Basenotes commentators, Hard Leather is as good as the revered Puredistance M, and the best release of 2013. Others, however, experienced a fecal note to the leather in Hard Leather’s opening 15 minutes, and really struggled with the scent. So, I repeat, Hard Leather is a complex, elaborate scent that isn’t for everyone.

Hard Leather is not currently available in the U.S., though you can order it from either LM Parfums or Premiere Avenue (which is also owned by Laurent Mazzone). (See, the Details section at the end for full retail information.) Osswald in NYC is the exclusive LM Parfums distributor in North America, but they don’t have Hard Leather listed on their website and I don’t know when they will get the fragrance. None of the decanting services offer Hard Leather. In short, U.S. perfumistas have very limited access to the perfume at this time, unless they pay an expensive shipping fee from Europe.

This is the main reason why I’m limiting the giveaway to U.S. readers. In addition, however, I will be shipping the decants to the winners myself, so I’ll be honest and say that the high international shipping rates charged by the U.S. Postal Service played a small role in my decision as well.

THE PRIZES:

Hard Leather 5 ml decant.

Hard Leather 5 ml decant.

Ten (10) readers will each get ONE (1) 5ml glass dab bottle of Hard Leather which is an Extrait or Pure Parfum. Hard Leather retails for €295 for the 100 ml bottle which, at the current rate of exchange, comes to roughly $406. The retail price of the 5 ml decant is €19, but with shipping, you’re looking at spending well over $50 for the decant being offered here. In short, LM Parfums was unbelievably generous.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:

There are two requirements to enter:

  1. You are in the U.S.; and
  2. You have to leave a comment down below, perhaps letting me know your favorite animalic scent or if you have tried anything from LM Parfums.

As a side note, I usually respond to each and every comment left in one of my Giveaways, but I won’t be doing so this time, for reasons of time and a really hectic schedule this week. I hope you won’t think me rude. Rest assured, I’ll be jotting all your names down and answering any questions that you may have.

WHEN DOES IT END:

The entry period lasts until the end of Friday February 21, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST) in the U.S. which is -6:00 GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

WINNERS, EMAILS & SHIPPING:

The 10 winners will be chosen by Random.org, and will be announced sometime the next day on Saturday, February 22nd.

Once I post the winners, you have THREE (3) days to contact me with your shipping information. Deadline is end of the day, my time, on Tuesday February 25th. Please send an email to Akafkaesquelife @ gmail . com  (all one word, scrunched together) with your shipping details.

If you don’t contact me, and if I fail to hear from you within the deadline, I will give your prize to the next person on the list.

Please be aware that I am not responsible for items accidentally lost or destroyed in transit for some reason. I will bubble-wrap like mad, but one never knows what may happen. The prize cannot be replaced. 

FINALLY:

Laurent Mazzone. Source: love2beauty.ru

Laurent Mazzone. Source: love2beauty.ru

I’d like to express my enormous gratitude to Laurent Mazzone of LM Parfums, as well as to Fabienne who assists him in these matters. He is truly one of the nicest guys you’ll meet in general, but this is an incredibly lavish gesture. I really don’t have the words to properly thank Mr. Mazzone for his generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness in offering such a huge number of decants of such an enormously expensive, but utterly fantastic, perfume. I wish you knew how ridiculously excited and happy I am that more of you will get to try my beloved Hard Leather. I know it won’t suit all of you, but I hope a few of you buckle to your knees as I did. Given Hard Leather’s price and the fact that it isn’t even available in the U.S. yet, this is a unique opportunity for all of you to try the scent, an opportunity which wouldn’t be possible at all without Mr. Mazzone. So, again, my deepest thanks to him.

Good luck to everyone!  

GENERAL DETAILS:
Cost & AvailabilityHard Leather is pure parfum extrait that is available only in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle which costs €295. It available at LM Parfums. You can sample Hard Leather in the 5 ml size offered here for €19, but shipping to the U.S. is high. Premiere Avenue also has a decant of Hard Leather for the same price. (It’s one of Laurent Mazzone’s companies.) In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances are sold exclusively at Osswald NYC, but as of the date of this posting, they don’t have Hard Leather yet. Outside the U.S.: You can find Hard Leather, along with all LM Parfums, and a 5 ml Hard Leather sample of each at Laurent Mazzone’s Premiere Avenue which ships throughout Europe. In the UK, the LM Parfums line is exclusive to Harvey Nichols. In Paris, LM Parfums are sold at Jovoy. In the Netherlands, you can find LM Parfums at ParfuMaria or Silks Cosmetics. In Germany, First in Fragrance carries the full line, and sells small samples as well. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Middle East, I found most of the LM Parfums line at the UAE’s Souq perfume site. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well.

As a result, I’m limiting this Giveaway to

LM Parfums Hard Leather: Lust In The Woods

Source: Tumblr. Original artist or site unknown.

Source: Tumblr. Original artist or site unknown.

Sex. Seduction. The scent of a man in leather and smoke. The softness of a woman in sandalwood and vanilla. Musky figures entwined on a rumpled bed, in a room filled with the black swirls of incense. The smell of his neck, his chin rough with dry stubble, and the lingering traces of rum on his mouth. Her body golden, smooth, covered with honey, and damp with sweat. Hardness, softness, and always, pure animal sensuality.

The images that come to my mind when Hard Leather first opens on my skin are wholly inappropriate for further description. But it happens each time I smell the new fragrance from by LM Parfums. In the past, seduction has come to mind with a few fragrances that I’ve tried this year, notably Hard Leather’s older sister, Sensual Orchid, and Amouage‘s Fate Woman, but nothing quite like this. Nothing quite so animalic, so overt. This is not about coy, flirtatious seduction, but steamy intimacy.

Source: timeslive.co.za

Source: timeslive.co.za

For me, the opening hour of Hard Leather is primal, purely sexual, and it impacted me immediately from the very first time I smelled it. It made me quite lose my cool, despite being with the actual perfumer in the most haughtily snobbish, constipated place in all of Paris. And every time I’ve worn it since, it makes me feel quite heated. In short, Hard Leather has one of the best openings of any perfume I’ve smelled this year. In many a year, actually. The rest of the fragrance is not quite as glorious, primarily due to a middle phase that I struggle with a little, but the perfume is still incredibly well done as a whole and I think a lot of men are going to love it. 

LM Parfums Hard Leather 3Hard Leather is set to release some time this week or the next in France, so I thought it was time for a full, proper review, beyond just my cursory, initial ravings. [Update: The perfume was officially released a few hours after the posting of this review, and is now available for sale.] Hard Leather is pure parfum with 20% fragrance oils, and part of LM Parfum’s new line called The Intimacy Collection. The press release description sent to me states that Hard Leather’s olfactory pyramid includes:

Top Notes: Rum, Leather.

Heart Notes: Iris, Honey.

Base Notes: Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Oud, Frankincense, Styrax and Vanilla.

Smoke #6 by Stefan Bonazzi. (Website link embedded within photo,.)

Smoke #6 by Stefan Bonazzi. (Website link embedded within photo,.)

When you smell Hard Leather from the sprayer on the bottle, you are hit with a wave of black incense that is almost fiery and piercing. It is followed by smoky, sweet oud that smells as though it were taken straight from an extremely old agarwood tree in Laos. On its heels is a powerful, intense sandalwood that is most definitely the real, spicy, glorious, and very rare kind from Mysore. There is a dustiness, a dryness to the wood-incense combination, but also a patina of sweetness. To my nose, the aroma evokes both the incense-sandalwood profile of my beloved vintage Opium, as well as the much drier, dustier, more fiery incense-sandalwood-oud combination of Neela Vermeire‘s Trayee. But you can’t judge a perfume by its bottle aroma, any more than you can a book by its cover.

Source: Tumblr. Original source or photographer unknown.

Source: Tumblr. Original source or photographer unknown.

Hard Leather opens on my skin with an initial whiff of honey and genuine Mysore sandalwood, then a powerful, potent burst of animalic, raw, musky leather. It’s as though a light coat of honey was thinly layered over raw animal hides left in the sun, which are then drenched with musk. The leather is initially like that in Montale‘s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, before it turns into something midway between Aoud Cuir d’Arabie and Serge Lutens‘ glorious Cuir Mauresque. By the same token, the musk is similar to that in Serge LutensMuscs Koublai Khan (hereinafter “MKK“), only rounder and generally softer. It has the most fleeting urinous edge, but far less than the Lutens had on my skin. I’m generally not one for very raw, extremely animalic leather, but, my God, it’s sexy here. It’s leather with the scent of skin, heated and musky after sex, lightly drizzled with honey, and wrapped up with tendrils of black incense.

On skin, the oud initially lurks behind the leather, but it rears its head after a few minutes. It smells exactly like the aged Laotian kind used in such expensive lines as Xerjoff, and Laurent Mazzone confirmed to me that it is indeed aged Asian agarwood. The wonderful difference, here, is that the oud never smells fecal, or (even worse) like rotting gorgonzola, the way that Laotian agarwood can sometimes be in perfumery. Instead, it’s smooth, with a bit of that “noble rot” funk that is true to real oud. It’s also sweet, thanks to the honey, and slightly smoking from the incense. The oud is blended perfectly with the other woods in Hard Leather, from the slightly musky, dry cedar, to the gloriously rich, smooth, spicy sandalwood. The latter most definitely smells like the real stuff, and judging by the Robertet name on my tiny decant and the fact that they deal with the most expensive raw materials, I suspect Mr. Mazzone spent a fortune ensuring he got actual, red Mysore instead of some generic beige wood or green Australian “sandalwood.”

Source: 123people.es

Source: 123people.es

The final result is an opening that I find to be utterly addictive, a smoldering cocktail of raw, steamy sex appeal. It’s as though Serge Lutens’ Cuir Mauresque mixed with MKK, Neela Vermeire’s Trayee, Montale’s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, and a dash of vintage Opium’s drydown, only the final result is ramped up by a hundred. It’s Lawrence of Arabia’s swarthy, musky sheikhs, with Turkish harem concubines clothed only in tendrils of incense, having sex in the ancient agar forests of Laos under freshly tanned, cured leather coated in honey and sandalwood.

Yet, for all that the notes may sound aggressive or too much, Hard Leather’s opening is utterly seamless and perfectly blended. The notes fluidly move one into the other, each transforming the next, with no hard edges, roughness, or spiky, prickly bits. In this phase, the incense may be the sharpest thing about the fragrance, waging a war of blackness on the sexual musk and leather, as if to drag the lovers to a Chinese temple. One thing I’ve noticed is that Hard Leather is a fragrance where less is sometimes more at the start, because two big sprays can be quite intense.

Thirty minutes in, Hard Leather starts to shift. The leather loses some of its rawness, turning richer, and more burnished. The musk softens too, feeling a little less dirty or skanky, while the honey blends in the base to add the faintest touch of sweetness. The sandalwood becomes even deeper, and even takes on a floral touch that is quite lovely. Actually, all the wood accords grow stronger, as does the smoke. Slowly, Hard Leather begins the transition to its next phase where the wood elements dominate the scent to such an extent, I sometimes wonder if the perfume might be more aptly named Hard Woods.

An hour into its development, Hard Leather begins its second stage, turning intensely dry. The desiccated feel from the woods and smoke essentially neutralizes the honey, but I think something else is at play. I smell Norlimbanol with its arid and, yes, its synthetic feel. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Norlimbanol is a super aromachemical from Givaudan that puts ISO E Super to shame with its power. It has an ultra powerful, sharp aroma of woodiness with an undertone of leather, but it is always bone-dry to the point of dustiness.

Recently, I spent 10 minutes sniffing just the outside of my little decant of Hard Leather, and there was a definite synthetic whiff of dry woodiness right from the sprayer. On skin, it only shows up after an hour or 75 minutes, but it does show up. A few times when I’ve sniffed Hard Leather on my arm and up close, I get an immediate tightness in my nose and the faintest tickle at the back of my throat. The Norlimbanol is merely a speck at first, but it becomes increasingly powerful in Hard Leather’s 2nd through 5th hours, and I have to admit, I’m not a fan of it. Even without it, I think the new focus on dry woods destroys the perfection of the first hour with its raw animalism and unapologetic, lusty sensuality. Bring back the sex and leather, I say!

Smoke #11   Stefano Bonazzi Selected Digital Works. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Smoke #11 Stefano Bonazzi Selected Digital Works. (Website link embedded within photo.)

About 90-minutes into its development, Hard Leather is a different fragrance. The oud and Norlimbanol have taken over, turning the scent into one of extreme woods and incense with a very arid feel. The lusty, raunchy leather is blended into it, but it is a much more muted layer that lies underneath, and it is no longer Hard Leather’s main focus. At the same time, Hard Leather’s initially powerful sillage drops. With 2 big sprays (or the equivalent of 3 enormous smears), Hard Leather initially wafts about 5-6 inches around you, before dropping down after 90 minutes to a softer, airier cloud that is only about 3 inches. It’s very intense when smelled up close, and remains that way for hours.

The other notes make a valiant effort to counter-balance the the power of the oud, incense, and Norlimbanol. Unfortunately, my skin takes synthetics like the latter and runs with it, so they’re not particularly successful. Still, I really like how the Mysore sandalwood blooms, turning more floral and much creamier. I can also detect the sweeter notes stirring in the base. Styrax is a smoky, spicy, slightly leathered sort of amber resin, and it adds little flecks of golden warmth like fireflies in an extremely dark, smoky forest. The tiniest tendrils of vanilla curl up as well, stroking the woods, trying to tame them with sweetness in order to end the dry spell.

Source: hqdesktop.net

Source: hqdesktop.net

The core essence of Hard Leather’s second stage remains largely unchanged for the next few hours. Different notes wax and wane in prominence or strength, but the intense smoke, dry woods, and oud dominate. The power of the trio and the length of their stay really seems to depend on how much Hard Leather you apply. The more you spray, the longer their duration and force, and the less sweetness the fragrance manifests. Regardless, midway during the third hour, the vanilla starts to play a much bigger role. It’s now quite cuddly, cozy, rich, and sweet. The sandalwood turns even creamier; it’s a very smooth, incredibly luxurious aroma that begins to muscle its way onto center stage. Hard Leather is an elegant blend of dryness, sweetness, spiciness, creaminess, smokiness, leather, and woods, with just a hint of something raunchy, untamed, and animalic at its edges.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

At the end of the fifth hour, the dryness finally recedes, and Hard Leather transitions to its third stage. The primary focal point is now spicy sandalwood and sweet vanilla, followed by oud, incense and increasingly muted hints of musky leather. It is all much more discreet, lying right on the skin, though it doesn’t take any effort to detect Hard Leather up close. Other notes pop up and down like a Jack in the Box. The honey reappears from time to time in the background, adding to Hard Leather’s growing glimpses of sweetness. The base feels much warmer now as well, though the styrax resin never seems like actual amber but something much more abstract in nature.

The oddest thing is the iris. Sometimes, Hard Leather has a definite floral element, but it really seems to stem primarily from the sandalwood. On occasion, however, the iris appears on my skin, primarily as a cool, soft suede with the faintest tinge of soft powder. It’s incredibly muted and weak on me, and I suspect cooler or paler skins may bring out the iris more than my warm, basenote-amplifying chemistry.

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

Hard Leather’s final stage begins around the 8th hour. The perfume is a blur of spicy sandalwood with tiny flickers of smoky oud, musk, and sweetness. It feels quite abstract on some levels, though the sandalwood is unmistakable. In its final moments, Hard Leather is merely a gauzy whisper of sweet, slightly spicy woodiness. The scent has astounding longevity on my perfume-consuming skin. Two big sprays (the equivalent of 3 enormous smears) lasted 14.25 hours, though it was quite patchy in spots and I actually thought it may have died after 12 hours. With only one spray, Hard Leather lasts just under 12.5 hours. The sillage is initially quite fierce, but, like all LM Parfums, softens and drops around the 90-minute mark. Using the smaller quantity, Hard Leather became a true skin on me at end of the 4th hour; with a larger application, at the end of the 6th.

I love Hard Leather, though it’s not perfect. I will never get tired of its opening, and how jaw-droppingly seductive it is. It is pure sex on a stick (or, in this case, sex in a bottle). I wish with all my heart that it would last forever, especially as I’m less enthused by the 2nd phase with all its Norlimbanol. Still, the aromachemical is miles away from the demonic toxicity of YSL‘s utterly heinous Noble Leather, and it certainly didn’t impact me in the same way. It’s also much softer and tamer in small quantities, so I’d gladly wear Hard Leather even with the bloody Norlimbanol. That should tell you how much I love that raunchy, sexual, primal start. It’s positively indecent — in the very best way possible! Hard Leather ends on a happy note, too, with creamy, rich, gloriously real Mysore sandalwood, warm vanilla, and, less excitingly, oud.

For all that I would like to drown myself in Hard Leather’s opening, for all its impact on me, I most definitely do NOT recommend the perfume to everyone. Those who disliked any of the fragrances that I’ve mentioned here — from Aoud Cuir d’Arabie and Cuir Mauresque, to Muscs Koublai Khan or Trayee — should stay away. Those who have issues with oud of any kind, especially aged agarwood, or who find animalic scents to be dirty, should avoid Hard Leather as well. People who like their leather to be more like suede or expensive handbags will find this scent to be far too raw for their tastes. And, as a whole, I don’t think Hard Leather is a fragrance that the vast majority of women would like on their own skin, though I think a lot would find it incredibly sexy on a man.

Hard Leather is a fragrance that skews sharply and unapologetically masculine, rendering things like Puredistance‘s glorious M extremely unisex in comparison. (I personally think that M really is unisex, but I know a number of women who feel they can’t wear it. That sentiment would be amplified by a thousand for Hard Leather.) I think the dryness of Hard Leather’s second phase may also be difficult for people of either gender who prefer a little more sweetness with their woods or animalic touches.

Amouage Opus VIISpeaking of that dryness, Hard Leather at the end of the second hour made me think of Amouage‘s Opus VII. The two fragrances are very different, particularly because of the herbal oddness of the fenugreek in Opus VII and the nature of the two musks. On my skin, the animalic elements in Opus VII turned into something strongly reminiscent of a wild cat enclosure at the zoo with peeing lions, instead of the scent of skin during sex. Opus VII is visually greener, with strong spices, and heavily peppered with ISO E Super. Yet both fragrances have an extreme darkness to them, and share oud, incense, sandalwood, leather tonalities, and amplifying synthetics with a bone-dry feel. I think Hard Leather is much less desiccated than Opus VII, and has sweeter, warmer elements, but, in terms of an aesthetic style, the two fragrances share some distant kinship, though I must stress again that they don’t smell anything alike.

Photo: Oleksiy Maksymenko. Source: FineArtAmerica. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Photo: Oleksiy Maksymenko. Source: FineArtAmerica. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Still, if Opus VII was your cup of tea and you didn’t find it too dry, oud-y or smoky, then you should definitely try Hard Leather. If neither Opus VII nor any of the other fragrances mentioned here were your style, Hard Leather won’t be either. In my case, I loathed Opus VII (thanks to the peeing lion and the ISO E Super), but I do love Hard Leather because of its greater kinship with fragrances like Cuir Mauresque, MKK, and Trayee. The raunchy sexuality of that opening phase is so beautifully balanced, melded so seamlessly with the other notes, that it is very tasteful in my eyes — which makes it even more seductive and hot. Perhaps the best way to describe it is to compare it to the height of foreplay, instead of anything more… climactic, shall we say. Hard Leather’s subsequent journey into the depths of a dark, smoky forest undergoing a drought is hardly as appealing, but the creamy, sweetened warmth of the final stage takes us back to bed, with a couple now sleeping off the after-effects of both stages in a haze of sandalwood, oud, and sweet muskiness. 

Unfortunately, none of this comes cheaply. From what I’ve gathered, and from my early taste of the 2014 LM Parfums fragrances that I tried in Paris, Laurent Mazzone’s new Intimacy Collection seeks to focus on more complex, sophisticated scents based on the most expensive of ingredients. Hard Leather is the first in that collection, and it is priced accordingly at €295. (The current extraits perfumes are €195, a €100 less.) I don’t know what the American price will be when it eventually hits these shores and comes to Osswald in New York, but €295 is $400 at today’s rate of exchange. On the other hand, Hard Leather is also pure parfum in concentration, and there is a 100 ml of it. It smells expensive; it includes incredibly costly ingredients like aged Laotian oud, iris, and, more importantly, rare, almost extinct Mysore sandalwood; and a single spray has great potency and longevity.

I’m the first one to decry perfumes that are over-priced for what they are, but I think you’re definitely getting your money’s worth with Hard Leather. It is worth every penny. In fact, if the perfume consisted solely of that smoking hot, steamy opening, but cost twice as much, I’d contemplate selling a kidney to buy it. My God, that opening… that opening…. I don’t know if I should take a freezing cold shower, or just spray on some more. 

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

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Hard Leather is pure parfum extrait that is available only in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle which costs €295. It was released just today, 12/04/13, online, at LM Parfums. Samples of all LM Parfums extraits are usually available and priced at €19 for 5 ml size, and I see Hard Leather is also listed as of 12/14. Laurent Mazzone’s Premiere Avenue now has a decant of Hard Leather for that price as well. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances are sold exclusively at Osswald NYC, but they informed me on Twitter that they won’t receive Hard Leather until January 2014. I will try to update this post when they do. Outside the U.S.: You can find Hard Leather, along with all LM Parfums, and 5 ml samples of each at Laurent Mazzone’s own Premiere Avenue which ships throughout Europe. Hard Leather is not yet offered in decant form, but you can check back later as the perfume was just released today.  In the UK, the LM Parfums line is exclusive to Harvey Nichols. In Paris, LM Parfums are sold at Jovoy. In the Netherlands, you can find LM Parfums at ParfuMaria or Silks Cosmetics. In Germany, First in Fragrance carries the full line, and sells samples as well. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Middle East, I found most of the LM Parfums line at the UAE’s Souq perfume site. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well.

LM Parfums Ambre Muscadin

Ambre MuscadinAmbre Muscadin is an unusual fragrance for an amber. It starts off as the dryest, smoked woody fragrance with sharp animalic notes, before ending up as something quite different. Its progression actually reminds me of a horse race where the three dark, woody, smoky, animalic sprinters burst right out of the gate to lead the pack before, suddenly, everything changes. A small, golden, amber gelding and a powerful, creamy, vanilla stallion both surge ahead to tie, neck and neck, with the front-runners, before gradually overtaking them in a long haul. Midway during the race, like Secretariat or Barbaro in days gone by, the mighty vanilla stallion sweeps them all with a flourish.

Ambre Muscadin is a fragrance from LM Parfums, a French niche house founded by Laurent Mazzone. I’ve met Mr. Mazzone and he is a rather adorable man, with a passion for very classic, but bold, perfumery done with a modern twist. That philosophy is certainly visible in Ambre Muscadin, an eau de parfum (with 15% perfume oil concentration) that was released in 2011. It is unclear who was the nose who collaborated with Mr. Mazzone on the fragrance. Rumour has it that it was the late Mona di Orio, with whom I know Mr. Mazzone was quite close.

Atlas cedar. Source: sodahead.com

Atlas cedar. Source: sodahead.com

LM Parfums describes Ambre Muscadin as follows:

The opulence of the atlas cedar adorned with mystery.
A bold violet, a charmer vetyver rise up its natural elegance.
White honey, lascivious vanilla, highlights its facets flesh and velvety. Then Amber reveals its heart of a sensuous mosaic cryptic, balsamic radiates the charms of the Orient …

Top Notes: Mount Atlas cedar, vetiver java, Violet
Heart Notes: Madagascar vanilla absolute, white honey
Base Notes: Siam benzoin, amber, musk

Ambre Muscadin opens on my skin with a ferocious blast of cedar, then vetiver. The notes are all coated with the faintest sliver of vanilla, white honey, amber and a very sharp musk that veers between feeling wholly animalic and, initially, a wee bit synthetic. I must confess, I’m not a particular fan of how Ambre Muscadin begins on me, because it consistently reminds me of some murky cedar swamp, infused with mossy, peaty, smoked vetiver. Once in a while, I think of the cedar chips underlying a hamster’s cage, only this cage is also filled with vetiver, and the whole thing lies under a dome of sharp smokiness, intense dryness, and the feral, urinous whiff of a musky animal. Ambre Muscadin is a very masculine amber on my skin in these opening moments, very much a woody fragrance first and foremost, then animalic, with amber and honeyed vanilla coming in absolutely last on the list.

"Young Atlantic White Cedar Swamp" by Jason Howell. http://www.motivepicture.com/?attachment_id=138

“Young Atlantic White Cedar Swamp” by Jason Howell. http://www.motivepicture.com/?attachment_id=138

Five minutes in, Ambre Muscadin slowly begins to shift. The vetiver becomes as prominent as the cedar, and it smells just like the note in really expensive, single-malt Scotch. The mossy, peaty aroma has a slightly burnt nuance, however, and both woody elements merge together to create something definitely quite leathery in feel on my skin. For some odd reason, the overall bouquet sometime reminds me of a significantly less sweet, drier version of Profumum Roma‘s Arso, only with a slightly honeyed tone, sharp animalism, and very little amber. Ambre Muscadin is hardly as thick, dense, sweet or sticky, but there is something about the profoundly dominant cedar focus of both fragrances, along with their smoked sharpness, that feels distantly related. 

Civet. Source: focusingonwildlife.com

Civet. Source: focusingonwildlife.com

The impression is fleeting. The amber in Ambre Muscadin starts to rise to the surface ten minutes into the fragrance’s development. Trailing behind it is the honey which most definitely feels like the white, creamy kind. It is a light touch, never very strongly sweetened, and delicately coated with the sheerest breath of vanilla. Like horses in a race, the notes stalk the front-runners, trying to catch up and tame Ambre Muscadin’s sharpness. They don’t succeed for the next 15 minutes, as that pungently feral, almost civet-like, urinous edge fights with the cedar and vetiver for the lead. It’s not my favorite combination in the world, so it’s quite a relief when the fragrance finally starts to mellow about 20 minutes in. The cedar pipes down to a medium hum, the vetiver feels more woody than burnt, and that animalic pungency is lightly diffused by a sweet, golden warmth.

I frequently feel as though I should write the beginning of this review from the perspective of someone other than myself. I’ve sprayed Ambre Muscadin on a lot of people; at no time has it smelled quite so intensely masculine, dry, woody, or sharp on their skin from the opening burst. In fact, on almost everyone, the aroma bouquet which wafts from the first spray is of a dry, but slightly sweet, caramel flan. Women, men…. it’s always caramel flan. Actually, to be precise, it’s rather more like “sexy flan,” to quote my friend and fellow blogger, Caro of Te de Violetas. She deserves full credit for the term, since she was the first to label it as such. And, yes, lest you are curious, there is a difference between regular flan and “sexy” flan, which all comes down to the degree of sweetness or having a subtle heart of dry darkness amidst the golden hues.

Adding a dry, smoked touch to food using a chef's cloche. Photo: my own.

Adding a dry, smoked touch to food using a chef’s cloche. Photo: my own.

I end up with “sexy flan” too, but it always takes me a whole hour to even begin to reach that same point. The first step occurs around the 20-minute mark, when the flan slowly merges into the drier, woody top notes, resulting in a cedar fragrance that is still smoked, but now also softly tinged with caramel amber. It’s not a fluffy, gooey, or dessert-y amber by any means. It is light, filled with a musky, animalic edge, and flecked with creamed honey.

Then, at the end of the second hour, Ambre Muscadin finally metamorphoses into pure caramel flan that sits on a plate with a tiny sauce of dry vanilla and atop a thin layer of white honey. There are the merest lingering, smoky traces of dark cedar and vetiver at the edges. Much more noticeable, but temperamental, however, is the animalic musk which hovers around like a ghost. It rears its head from time to time behind the sweetened amber, then traipses off, before popping back in unexpectedly. The musk continues to linger as a slightly urinous, Jack-in-the-Box undercurrent before it finally gives up near the end of the fourth hour, and vanishes.

Source: taste.com.au

Source: taste.com.au

By the start of the fourth hour, I smell rather delicious, even if I do say so myself. Delicate, sheer caramel-vanilla amber coats my skin, with a subtle whisper of honey. the bouquet is still too dry and woody to be really “foodie” in nature, though. In fact, the unusual nature of the vanilla element leads me to think that the rumour may, in fact, be true, and that Mona di Orio might have created this fragrance. For one thing, she loved Bourbon Vanilla extract, but often tried to make it rather dry in nature. Something about the amber-vanilla here reminds me of her Ambre, though Ambre Muscadin thankfully never manifests that fragrance’s heavily powdered nature on my skin.

Instead, Ambre Muscadin is a sheer organza of dry, caramel-vanilla, amber flan that continues to feel smoked and somewhat woody in an abstract way. As time passes, the vanilla starts to overtake even the amber, eventually turning Ambre Muscadin into a fragrance that is primarily a dry, abstractly woody vanilla with only the mildest dusting of sweet benzoin powder. It dies away in much the same way, a full 12.75 hours from the time of the first spray.

Source: onlinefabricstore.net

Source: onlinefabricstore.net

Ambre Muscadin is very pretty in its secondary manifestation, and lasts a prodigiously long amount of time for such a sheer, airy fragrance. On my skin, it was never unctuous, heavy, thick, or very sweet. The sillage was initially moderate, despite the fragrance’s sharpness, and hovered 2-3 inches above the skin. Ambre Muscadin started to soften after the first hour, in both forcefulness, weight, and sillage. It took about four hours to turn into a skin scent on me, but the perfume clung on tenaciously despite its sheerness.

My favorite review for Ambre Muscadin comes from Caro of Te de Violetas, though I notice her detailed description sadly never mentions the utterly wonderful “sexy flan” phrase. (I absolutely love that summation, and can never think of Ambre Muscadin as anything else since the moment I heard it!) According to Caro, it is indeed Mona di Orio who is behind the fragrance. Her review also finds some thematic similarities to the late perfumer’s Ambre, and it reads, in part, as follows:

Ambre Muscadin brings instantly to mind two other fragrances that I love: Mona di Orio Ambre and Editions de Parfums Musc Ravageur. Deeper, sweeter and more intense than any of those two, it also smells less abstract.

The opening is all about cedarwood at its most opulent and resinous. For a moment, I wonder whether this should be renamed Cèdre Muscadin. A dark, velvety violet briefly peeks from underneath the coniferous greenness. Before I can even realise it, I am carried away by a whirlwind of honey, amber and vanillaAmbre Muscadin is thick and sweet but the omnipresent cedarwood note cuts through the sweetness keeping it at bay; consequently the composition never becomes cloying. The drydown is powdery and musky, slightly animalic but not excessively dirty.

There is an aura of nostalgia about Ambre Muscadin, but the result is not passé. Nothing in it smells synthetic and I find it wondefully comforting. Its tenacious vanillic embrace holds me for hours on end.

I’m not in love with Ambre Muscadin the way she is, no doubt due to the fact that I had, quite obviously, a very different experience. From the nature of the musk to our perceptions of Ambre Muscadin’s density, to the peaty vetiver in lieu of violet, my version was substantially drier, woodier, smokier, dirtier, and more pungently animalic. There was more of a modern twist on me, with little sweetness, powder, or aura of nostalgia. Yet, I very much agree with the core of her review, and I think she summed it up well. I most definitely share her feeling that the fragrance seems, at times, to be more aptly described as Cèdre Muscadin. In fact, I wrote the exact same thing in my notes. Verbatim. (That should tell you how much the cedar dominates Ambre Muscadin’s opening phase!)

Caro’s experience seems similar to that of Juraj from BL’eauOG who writes:

Ambre Muscadin … is very powdery and woody oriental. Ambre Muscadin is very soft, thick and sweet perfume with generous amber dry down. It feels like the liquid gold on the skin. Opening of Ambre Muscadin is very woody with vetiver, cedar wood and later on, the softness takes over – vanilla, violet, honey notes. Dry down is made of gold because it has beautiful, soft amber and benzoin. For the grand finale, everything is wrapped with musk.

For Lucas of Chemist in the Bottle, things were a little different. For one thing, the musk was as dominant on his skin for the opening stage as it was on mine. It was also somewhat dirty, though it doesn’t seem to have been half as animalic as my experience. His review reads, in part:

Musk plays a significant role in this perfume. It’s sensual and erotic. Not exactly clean as it has some dirtier facets bringing to mind a view of sweaty, sporty body. Amber is luminous here. Not plastic at all but more mineral, slightly marine-salty with a noticeable tones from cedar wood. Later on vanilla and benzoin amplify the amber accord adding it more depth and weight. They add a creamy and slightly gourmand feeling to the composition of Ambre Muscadin. The notes of amber, musk, honey, entwine with each other creating a harmony of aromas.

Most of the people upon whom I sprayed Ambre Muscadin had slightly different experiences from all the above-mentioned bloggers, and even myself. To my surprise, on two of the four people’s skins, the opening had very little cedar and no animalic pungency at all. On one person, Ambre Muscadin was almost entirely a dry, slightly smoky caramel-vanilla flan from the very start. On all of them, I never detected any thickness or strong sweetness. And the sillage was incredibly discrete on two of them after a mere hour, though the longevity was excellent as it usually is for all LM Parfums. 

I generally like Ambre Muscadin, but only after its sharp opening has passed. In fairness, however, the perfume seems to be a little bit of a chameleon, with the nature of that starting phase depending largely on individual skin chemistry. While I may not be swooning over the fragrance as a whole, or tempted to reach for it frequently, I do think Ambre Muscadin is well done. If you’re a huge fan of cedar perfumes, Mona di Orio’s fragrance style, and/or dry, woody, amber-vanillas, I think it’s definitely worth a test sniff.

Disclosure: My sample of Ambre Muscadin was provided by Laurent Mazzone of LM Parfums. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Ambre Muscadin is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. It costs $175, €125 or £125. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances are sold exclusively at OsswaldNYC. Unfortunately, none of the U.S. perfume sample sites currently offer samples of this fragrance. However, Osswald offers a special sample offer for its US customers where any 10 fragrances are available in 1 ml vials for $10, with free domestic shipping. You have to call (212) 625-3111. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can buy Ambre Muscadin directly from LM Parfums for €195. Samples are also available for €14, and come in a good 5 ml size. In the UK, the line is carried exclusively at Harvey Nichols which sells the Eau de Parfums for £125. In France, you can find all the LM Parfums, along with the 5 ml samples of each, at Laurent Mazzone’s own Premiere Avenue. In Paris, it’s sold at Jovoy. Germany’s First in Fragrance carries the full line and sells Ambre Muscadin for €125, in addition to samples. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Netherlands, you can find the line at ParfuMaria. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well. 

Paris Perfumers: Laurent Mazzone & LM Parfums

Fate, planning, and a little bit of serendipity gave me the chance to meet with three, very different, Paris perfumers during my trip. Actually, to be completely precise, one is primarily based in Grenoble, and one is an actual nose/creator, while the other two are more technically considered as perfume creators with their own houses. Semantics aside, I had a marvelous time with each one, and thought I’d share a little bit of the experience, each of which was very different but utterly memorable. Today, the focus will be Laurent Mazzone and some of the LM Parfums that I tried, including some gorgeous upcoming, new releases slated for November 2013 and early 2014.

LAURENT MAZZONE & LM PARFUMS:

Hotel Costes. Source: hotel-costes.semuz.com

Hotel Costes. Source: hotel-costes.semuz.com

The Hotel Costes on the Rue St. Honoré in Paris is perhaps the pinnacle of stylish, ne plus ultra, sophisticated cool. Velvet, opulence and excess are the bywords for the decor inside, but one of the main attractions is the indoor courtyard. And what a scene it is! Imagine a large, covered, indoor courtyard surrounded on high by Roman statues and greenery. At its pristine, white tables covered with crystal glasses, an array of pencil-thin, black-clad, social x-rays — draped in ennui as much as in Hermès — pose stylishly on thin, black chairs. Their fragile bones seem likely to be crushed by the great effort of lifting their cigarettes. And they’ve clearly followed the mantra and example of Anna Wintour, Vogue’s “Nuclear Winter” editor-in-chief, when it comes to haughtiness. Their male counterparts are all tanned, in dark suits with crisp white shirts that are opened a few buttons, and fixated on their cellphones as they sip a glass of chilled white wine with one well-shod limb elegantly crossed over the other. All around are a phalanx of haughty waiters, many of whom seem to be aspiring models, who look down their noses at your from their great height and seem almost offended that you’ve bothered them with a request. (Or perhaps they’ve simply got issues with people who ask for ice, or for directions to the loo? At the very least, they’ve got issues with a variety of things, and need a serious attitude adjustment.)

Hotel Costes courtyard. Source: lefigaro.fr. photo : DR.

Hotel Costes courtyard. Source: lefigaro.fr. photo : DR.

Outside the Hotel Costes. Photo: my own.

Outside the Hotel Costes. Photo: my own.

As I walked up to the hotel from the aristocratic, luxurious Place Vendome just around the corner, a large chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce was idling, and a bodyguard talking into his microphone. The chauffeur stood in the middle of the road with the famous Chopard jewellers behind him. Hovering like a gaggle of geese, outside and in, were extremely tall, elegantly clad women whose clothing, looks, and attitude marked them as somehow being involved in Paris Fashion Week which was ending the next day (October 2nd).

It was into this overly hip, excessively cool, “in” scene that I arrived — sleep-deprived, with my voice half-gone from the early part of my trip, and feeling rather bedraggled, if truth be told. I was scheduled to meet Laurent Mazzone and Fabienne, the international business agent for LM Parfums, whose incredibly warm, sweet, and friendly emails had resulted in this meeting. We had begun communicating just a few days before my departure and after my enthusiastic, extremely positive review for LM Parfums‘ gorgeous Sensual Orchid.

As luck would have it, Laurent Mazzone was going to be in Paris for the fashion shows. He had greatly enjoyed the thoroughness of my review (happily, my verboseness seems to a positive thing for some people!), and invited me for drinks. When I warned Fabienne that my French was rusty and that I hadn’t spoken it consistently in almost 20 years, she offered to come along as well. (It was just as well because, despite her opinion that I wasn’t at all rusty, I most definitely am! Plus, in the fog of my exhaustion, I often blanked out on words or phrases. Merci, Fabienne, for saving my linguistic hide.)

Laurent Mazzone and Fabienne during Moscow Fashion Week 2013. Source: annarusska.ru

Laurent Mazzone and Fabienne during Moscow Fashion Week 2013. Source: annarusska.ru

I found Laurent and Fabienne easily, sitting at a couple of tables in the corner along with Laurent’s partner, and was greeted with kisses and even a hug. Laurent Mazzone is a very dapper, youngish man in his early ’30s (I think), with a cherubic face, a naughty gleam in his mischievous, warm, brown eyes, and a big grin. He has an enormously exuberant personality, which I loved, and endless passion. Yet, he is also extremely serious when it comes to the subject of perfumery, and has a true commitment to the idea of making luxurious, sensuous perfumes in the grand tradition, but with a modern feel. There was enormous sensitivity in those brown eyes when listening to my comments about some of his line, sometimes followed by a huge, infectious smile from ear to ear when he saw that I understood and appreciated their nature.

Source: uae.souq.com

Patchouli Boheme. Source: uae.souq.com

He had brought a chic, black, and black-ribboned, LM Parfums bag of what I thought would be perfume samples. They turned out to be actual, full, 100 ml bottles of 3 of his fragrances: Ambre Muscadin, Patchouli Boheme, and the new, limited-edition, Chemise Blanche. Yet, despite my patchouli and amber obsession, I never tested any of those perfumes that day and, instead, ended up trying his forthcoming, new perfume, Hard Leather.

Hard Leather will be released in November, and I can’t wait because I absolutely loved it! In fact, I think I may have yelped or cried out rather loudly upon sniffing it because, suddenly, some tables of black-clad, haughty Parisians were turning around with raised eyebrows. I didn’t care, and I think I may have hugged Mr. Mazzone at one point over Hard Leather because it was (and is) absolutely fantastic. Mr. Mazzone describes it as an “animalic leather” that, to my opinion at least, isn’t particularly animalic or aggressive after the opening 10 minutes, but, instead, much more beautifully well-rounded and warm. It might be “animalic” by French standards, but I don’t think it is generally or as a whole, and especially not by Middle Eastern or Amouage standards.

Hard Leather has its musky side to be sure, but it’s primarily woody, sweet, rich, spicy, ambered, and incredibly sensual. From the first sniff, I could instantly tell that there was oud from Laos in it, with its own very unique, aged character, but what I liked about this version of it is that it didn’t smell fecal like so many fragrances that use that particular Laotian wood. Even better, there is none of that revolting Gorgonzola or cheese undertone that very aged Laotian oud can sometimes have. Soon after the agarwood announces itself, there is a burst of pungent civet which quickly calms down (in less than ten minutes), and melts into the rich, well-blended, richly burnished whole.

In essence, Hard Leather smells like your boyfriend’s leather jacket, lightly mixed with his musky scent, along with deep, almost honeyed, slightly smoky oud, and a vague tinge of floral sweetness, atop a base of ambered warmth. At times, it seemed to share some kinship with Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque, which is one of my absolute favorite Lutens fragrances, but there are clear differences in smell. Even apart from the oud, Hard Leather has a little more edge at first, and is significantly more woody. It also seems to have a different (and much smaller) floral vein running through it. I can’t remember the rest of the notes that Laurent later told me about, but, if memory serves me correctly, there is iris absolute in Hard Leather as well. [UPDATE 10/17/13 – I have the official press release for Hard Leather with its sleek graphics and the full list of notes in the perfume.]

I also can’t recall the name of the perfumer with whom Laurent worked, but I laughed at his description of the process whereby he kept telling the nose to put in “more. More, more, more!” Not only is such a comment completely in keeping with Mr. Mazzone’s character, intensity and passion, but the perfume really has deep richness. I was so crazy about Hard Leather that Mr. Mazzone sent his friend up to their rooms to get his own small decant to give me as a gift, which resulted in a further exuberant outburst that undoubtedly horrified the Hotel Costes’ snobs, but too bad. This is such a fantastic perfume! I will do a review closer to the perfume’s launch date, but I’m telling guys, in particular, and women who like masculine, woody or leather scents: you need to check this one out.

Source: Silkcosmetics.nl

Some, but not all, of the LM Parfums line. Source: Silkcosmetics.nl

What I love about LM Parfums is that they are luxurious, sensuous, full-bodied, and rich. Hard Leather, unlike most of the perfumes from the line, is an extrait de parfum (only three of the current LM Parfums have that concentration), and clocks in at 20% perfume oil. All the perfumes, however, have an opulence that really harkens back to the golden age of perfumery. They’re not fuddy-duddy, old or dated in smell, but Laurent is clearly driven by his love for the classic perfume greats. These fragrances all feel like actual, serious perfumes — they proclaim their richness and luxurious nature without hesitation, announce their presence, and feel no shame over the fact that they are both perfume and French in nature.

Yet, the thing I found with Sensual Orchid and Hard Leather is that their richness contrasts with a surprising airiness in feel. These are not opaque, thick perfumes by any means! Based on what I’ve tested thus far from the line, even the sillage drops after about 2-3 hours to hover somewhat discretely just an inch or so above the skin. The perfumes are potent when smelled up close and linger, but they aren’t battleships of heaviness with nuclear projection that trails you for hours. (In all honestly, I wish they were like that, but I realise that my personal tastes are not the modern style, and that ’80s-style powerhouses are rarely made today.) Still, LM Parfums are all very French in feel or spirit. Mr. Mazzone mentioned a number of the perfume legends, like Guerlain’s Mitsouko, for example, and how he wants his perfumes to reflect the same sort of sophisticated complexity with layers of nuance.

His philosophy certainly shows in Hard Leather, but also in another upcoming fragrance called Army of Lovers. It is a chypre and, honestly, this is a true chypre! None of that neo-chypre or wanna-be, pretend, quasi-chypre business. (Le Labo’s Ylang 49, I’m looking straight at you with your revolting purple patchouli!) No, this is an actual, genuine chypre with an amount of oakmoss absolute that you have to smell to believe. It’s beautiful, very elegant, and reeks of class. It was created by Mr. Mazzone with a Robertet nose (I think) whose name I have now forgotten, and the perfume name references a Swedish group that Mr. Mazzone loves. I have to wonder if there will be any trademark issues in using the same name, but the perfume won’t be released until 2014, so I’m sure he has time to work out any problems that may arise.

I wish I could recall the notes in Army of Lovers, but all I remember now is how impressed I was with its elegance. At one point, I had Hard Leather on one shoulder or bicep, and Army of Lovers on the other — and I may have uttered a rather strangled, guttural moan. I certainly did something very loudly that seemed to have (further) shocked the constipated denizens of the Hotel Costes, and I saw a very disapproving gleam in our server’s eyes when he stopped by next. At this point, I most definitely did not care. Laurent Mazzone was spraying me with glee, and then himself, and we were standing up to sniff each other publicly without the slightest bit of thought to those around. I might have entered a slight fugue state at one point as the potent chypre of Army of Lovers, and the spicy, oriental, animalic leather-oud warmth of Hard Leather billowed out around me. I may have this incorrectly, but if I recall, I think Laurent Mazzone stated that Ambre Muscadin and Patchouli Boheme are two of the main corner stones or representational fragrances from his line. I suspect that either Hard Leather, Army of Lovers, or both will be soon joining them.

In telling you all this, I’m being completely honest. Just as I am when I say that there were some things I smelled that day that were not my cup of tea at all. Very well-made, and beautifully blended, yes, but most definitely not my personal style. Mr. Mazzone sprayed me with something and — blame my usual bluntness or, perhaps, massive sleep-deprivation — I instinctively recoiled, my whole body jerked back, and I grimaced. It was some floral fragrance with purple, fruity patchouli and a synthetic element. So much purple, sweetness, and fruitiness! I had blocked out the name entirely due to my sheer horror, but, in looking over the list of names in the LM line now, I suspect it was O de Soupirs.** If I recall correctly, Mr. Mazzone described its feeling or inspiration as something a woman would wear before going to a rendezvous with her lover. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out something along the lines of “Absolutely not! This is for a 14-year old girl!” (Oh God, now that I’m remembering more of the day, I think I even tried to rub it off my arm with a napkin!)  ** [UPDATE: it turns out the fragrance I didn’t like was a new, upcoming, not-yet-released perfume called Lost Paradise. It will be launched in 2014. — Further Update 1/29/14: the name has been changed to Ultimate Seduction. ]

I usually try to be more tactful and polite, so I’m quite chagrined at my rudeness, but I really couldn’t help the outburst or my instinctive, gut-level reaction. There was a pause in the conversation, and Mr. Mazzone blinked, but he was extremely gracious about it, though there was a hurt look in his sensitive eyes. I tried to explain that I was always very honest in my opinions, and that my candour should let him know that I was quite sincere in my raves for the other two perfumes. He actually seemed to like that a lot, but he’s also incredibly polite, so perhaps I’m just hoping that he put it all into context.

Even before this incident, Mr. Mazzone had quickly caught onto my personal tastes, which strongly mirror his own, so it wasn’t a surprise when he immediately noted that I would very much dislike another perfume that he had included in the very generous “samples.” It was the new, recently released but limited-edition Chemise Blanche which — unlike its siblings — is not done in a black, velvet box imprinted with the LM Parfums logo. It’s also not in one of the black bottles that Mr. Mazzone has intentionally made almost just barely opaque, but not quite. He was concerned that perfume owners would not be able to see how much was left in their bottle if it was a solid black, so he specifically had the glass done in a way which would show how much liquid was left if the bottle was held up to the light. I loved the thoughtfulness and attention to detail involved in that, especially as the issue of remaining quantity is a problem that I always have with my old, jet-black bottle of Fracas.

Chemise BlancheInstead, Chemise Blanche is in a clear, glass bottle and in a white velvet box. The reason Mr. Mazzone was sure I would dislike it is because it is very much the opposite of my favorites from his line: it’s a perfume centered around aldehydes and citruses. To me, it very much evokes something crystalline in visuals, almost Alpine, if you will: white, pure, clear, airy, and very light in feel, despite being an extrait in concentration. According to Fragrantica, the notes include:

aldehydes, bergamot, mandarin, iris, lily of the valley, rose, benzoin, tonka, amber and musk.

To my surprise, given my loathing for aldehydes, the note was much tamer than I had expected but, alas, even Mr. Mazzone admitted that Chemise Blanche smelled of soap and dishwashing liquid on my skin. (By now, sniffing yet my another portion of my shoulder, we were really receiving some strange looks!) Chemise Blanche is not my style at all, and my skin is always a huge problem when it comes to aldehydes, but I freely admit that the perfume is very well-done. Actually, with a few wearings, I occasionally persuaded myself that Chemise Blanche might almost be something I would opt for if I were looking for a crisp, light, gauzy perfume with a citric edge. Almost. I’m wearing Hard Leather as I write this, and I doubt I would ever go for crystal white when I could have shades of richly burnished brown, red, black and amber instead!

Nonetheless, Chemise Blanche turned out to be quite a hit with my friend with whom I was staying and who has very difficult perfume tastes. It’s not only that she is someone whose tastes are the polar opposite of mine; it’s also that she finds almost everything to be “too sweet” or “too strong.” She recoils in horror at even the slightest bit of Orientalism or spice, isn’t a huge fan of most pure florals, and adores airy, light, clean and citrusy fragrances. Even in that last category, however, she thinks the vast majority are “too sweet.” (It was quite interesting going perfume-shopping with her one day! No matter what citrus fragrance I found for her, almost all were rejected and, in a few cases, deemed to be “too masculine” as well.) Chemise Blanche, however, smelled lovely on her skin, and she seemed almost convinced that it wasn’t the dreaded, verboten “sweet.” (It is not. Not even remotely!) So, I left her a large decant for her to test out while she decides if it is full-bottle worthy. 

Laurent Mazzone. Source: unique.ru.com

Laurent Mazzone. Source: unique.ru.com

All in all, I had an absolutely wonderful time meeting Laurent Mazzone, his partner, and Fabienne. They were incredibly warm, friendly, effusive, generous, and filled with life. It was truly fun, whether we were laughing over Mr. Mazzone’s astringent views on some of the Paris Fashion Week collections, sniffing each other publicly, or having passionately robust discussions about the state of perfumery in the past versus today.

You know, all perfumers talk or claim that they put a little bit of themselves or their personalities within each fragrance, but it’s not always true. Commercial perfumery certainly doesn’t have that, and neither do some purportedly “niche” lines. Yet, in sniffing the various LM Parfums, I can actually and genuinely see a little bit of Mr. Mazzone in most of them. There is a quietly refined, passionate lustiness or sensuality in the ones that I’ve tried — whether it’s the overtly sexy Sensual Orchid, the smooth, sweetened, goldenness of Ambre Muscadin, the hugely smoky Patchouli Boheme with its almost mesquite-like opening, or the more masculine Hard Leather — that really seems to epitomize different parts of the gregarious, outgoing, exuberantly passionate man I met. Chemise Blanche seems to be an anomaly, at least to me personally, in terms of that character assessment theory, but the line certainly carries something for everyone and its clean crispness should definitely appeal to some modern tastes.

I may end up doing a proper review for Chemise Blanche down the line, but I definitely plan to cover Patchouli Boheme and Ambre Muscadin. Hard Leather as well, when it is released next month. In the meantime, if you have the chance to try any LM Parfums, do give them a sniff. The line is now in the U.S., and is no longer exclusive to Europe. Plus, Osswald in New York has a very affordable deal on samples which should make testing quite easy. For readers in Europe, the line is not hard to find, and LM Parfums sells 5 ml decants at a very reasonable price (€14 or €19). As for me, I suddenly fell upon the genius idea of layering Sensual Orchid with Hard Leather on occasion, and now, I really have to get my hands on a proper decant of both. The people at the Hotel Costes are lucky they’re not around to witness my reaction….

[UPDATE: I have now reviewed Ambre Muscadin and Hard Leather, with shopping information and pricing information provided in the appropriate reviews.]

Disclosure: Some of the perfumes covered in this post were, as noted, provided by LM Parfums. There was no financial compensation for any of this. I don’t do paid reviews or posts, and my views are my own. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: LM Parfums always come in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. The European price is generally either €120 (€125 at some online vendors), or €195 (or £195). The American retail price is either $175 or $225. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances used to be European exclusives, but the range just came to America two months ago. It’s sold exclusively at OsswaldNYC. For some strange reason, the website seems to show only two fragrances now, and not all the ones it had earlier when I reviewed Sensual Orchid. In terms of samples, none of the U.S. perfume sample sites currently carry the LM Parfums line, but Osswald has a special deal for all its perfumes for U.S. customers who telephone the store: 10 samples for $10, with free shipping in the U.S., and it’s for any perfumes that they stock! That means the full, existing, current LM Parfums line (or whatever parts they may now carry of it), and some other goodies only found at OsswaldNY, for less than a $1 a vial! The deal is only available for telephone orders, however, so you have to call (212) 625-3111. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can buy the perfumes directly from LM Parfums for €125 or €195. (At this other LM Parfums site, some of the bottles are priced at €120.) Samples are also available for €14 or €19, depending on the perfume in question and its concentration, and they come in a good 5 ml size. In the UK, the LM Parfums line is carried exclusively at Harvey Nichols. In France, you can find the perfumes, and 5 ml samples of each (usually about €14) at Laurent Mazzone’s own Premiere Avenue. In Paris, LM Parfums are sold at Jovoy. Germany’s First in Fragrance carries the full line and sells samples as well. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Netherlands, you can find LM Parfums at Silks Cosmetics or Parfumaria. In the Middle East, I found most of the LM Parfums line at the UAE’s Souq perfume retailer. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well. 

LM Parfums Sensual Orchid: Dressed to Seduce

Gisele Bundchen for Vogue Turkey March 2011. Photo: the always incredible Mert & Marcus.

Gisele Bundchen for Vogue Turkey March 2011. Photo: the always incredible Mert & Marcus.

The urban jungle seemed very far away as she dressed in the bedroom of the villa at St. Barts. It hadn’t been a planned visit, but her seduction of him had been a long time in the making. He’d stolen her heart the minute he’d walked into the room, with his black, leather jacket, devil-may-care tousled blond hair, chiseled Nordic face, emerald eyes, and wide grin. He smiled at everything, and she hoped he would smile at the new lingerie she had bought. She felt nervous, but excited, as she awaited his arrival. She gave herself another big spray of perfume for good luck.

Source: wallpaperstop.biz

Source: wallpaperstop.biz

The swirl of orchids, velvety ylang-ylang, jasmine, vanilla and sweet musk curled in the air around her, mixed with the tropical hint of coconut that wafted in from the trees on the beach. She had loved him for so long, not daring to think he may feel the same way, and she almost couldn’t believe their time had finally come. She hurriedly poured herself a snifter of expensive, aged cognac to relax her nerves, and a few drops fell on her golden skin, mixing with the sweet flowers and tropical headiness. She smiled as the fragrance and boozy liqueur enveloped her in their narcotic touch. How could he resist their heady lure? She was wearing Sensual Orchid, she was ravishing, she was invincible, she would tempt him beyond all belief.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

I generally try not to review fragrances that are exclusive to Europe, extremely hard to track down, or difficult to sample. I couldn’t help it this time, as I was quite surprised by a sexy, heady, gorgeous fragrance from LM Parfums called Sensual Orchid. LM Parfums is a French niche house founded by Laurent Mazzone, and its fragrances used to be exclusive to Europe until just recently. A short while ago, New York’s Osswald perfumery started carrying the line. Yet, I still hadn’t intended to officially review the fragrance that I obtained last year by complete happenstance from eBay.

Then, a few days ago, after having a bad day, I just decided to put a tiny, single, minuscule sprayed drop on my hand. For hours, that almost nonexistent smear emitted a smell whose delicate tendrils curled in the air around me. I couldn’t believe it, and every time I sniffed my hand, I couldn’t get enough. So, I said limited access be damned, I just had to had to tell you about this wonderful perfume and the house behind it.

Laurent Mazzone. Source: unique.ru.com

Laurent Mazzone. Source: unique.ru.com

LM Parfums is the brain child of a Frenchman with Italian origins, Laurent Mazzone, who was fascinated by fragrance from a young age. As Essenza Nobile explains, “[a]s a young child, he analyzed and mixed samples of perfumes to discover new scents…. a passion for scents was born.” In 1998, “drawn by fashion catwalks and workrooms,” Mr. Mazzone decided to dedicate his life to fashion, opening up a boutique called Premiere Avenue. (I believe it is the same Premiere Avenue site that I so often link to in the Details section as a perfume retailer.) When Mr. Mazzone decided to enter into the world of fragrance, he initially started with scented candles but, in 2010, he expanded into actual perfumes. He launched LM Parfums which now has eight fragrances to its tally. As that Essenza Nobile biography explains, his “desire is to convey his passion to fashion through a line of perfumes evoking luxury fabrics. […] He came across renowned noses that he had always admired by their creation fulfilling his emotion.”

Sensual OrchidOne of those noses is Jerome Epinette whom Mr. Mazzone hired to create the second Extrait pure parfum in his collection. In 2012, LM Parfums released Sensual Orchid, a floral oriental with 20% perfume concentration. Believe me, its opulent richness and luxuriousness shows! Sensual Orchid’s description, as quoted by OsswaldNYC, reads:

Like a feminine model on the catwalk, Sensual Orchid captivates your senses with its incredible aromas. The second essence of perfume will take you to the front of the stage. The carnal pleasures evoked by this sumptuous arrangement of natural sophisticated fragrances. A first subtle scent of citrus fruit and almond leads you into a refined heart of orchid, jasmine sambac, Lysilang, peony and heliotrope then leaves a voluptuous final touch made of vanilla, musk, blonde wood, white cedar wood, labdanum and benzoin.

Source: Topwalls.net

Source: Topwalls.net

The notes, as provided by OsswaldNYC, include:

Top notes: Mandarin, almond, neroli

Heart notes: Orchid, jasmine sambac, Lysilang [ylang-ylang], peony, heliotrope

Base notes: Vanilla, musk, blonde wood, white cedar wood, labdanum, benzoin

Fragrantica adds ylang-ylang to the list, but it seems to be a reference to Lysilang. According to the Academia del Profumo, Lysilang involves a special and different sort of ylang-ylang scent due to the “fractioning” method of perfume processing:

The technique of fractioning can be used to dismantle the odour into its various components or groups of components, before proceeding to select the fractions that are nobler or more interesting from an olfactory standpoint. The result is a cleaner, purer end product.

This technique is used with vetiver, for example, removing its earthier parts: the smell of the roots and its less attractive notes.

Lysilang (by Robertet), a very pure, natural and fresh odour, is obtained in this way from the essential oil of Ylang Ylang III from the Comoro Islands.

I think the description is important because ylang-ylang is a big part of Sensual Orchid, and its aroma feels unusually concentrated, rich, heady and creamy in the fragrance, while simultaneously being oddly clean in a way. It’s just one of a few unusual aspects of the fragrance.

Source: de.flash-screen.com

Source: de.flash-screen.com

The key to Sensual Orchid, however, is the eponymous flower in the title. It’s an odd flower because it doesn’t have any one, particular, easily identifiable aroma. Orchids are not like tuberose or roses, to give just one example, with a clear, set fragrance. Instead, it can be almost anything, depending on the species of flower and what pollinated it. Fragrantica has a very fascinating exploration of the subject, in which Dr. Ellen Covey of the Olympic Orchids (both an actual perfume house and an orchid nursery) talks about the flower’s various, different, possible aromas:

There are about 20,000-30,000 species of orchids belonging to about 900 different genera. Orchid scents are all over the place from the most beautiful floral scents to odors that we find unpleasant, such as feces or rotten meat. The scent depends on what insect pollinates the orchid. Bees and butterflies are attracted to floral scents, and flies are attracted to rotting animal matter. Each genus of orchids has a range of scents, but there is generally some predictability within a genus. Cattleya orchids all have floral-type scents that range from light and citrusy to heavy and indolic. Bulbophyllum orchids often have rotten meat odors, or other stinky smells.

I have orchids that smell exactly like coconut suntan lotion, butterscotch and cedar wood, cinnamon, sweet clover, roses, or baby powder. If there is a “typical” orchid flower scent, it would probably be a generic cattleya, but more often the “orchid” note in perfume is a fantasy note of some sort. Vanilla is extracted from the seedpods of an orchid, so maybe it could be thought of as the quintessential orchid scent.

Source: hd4desktop.com

Source: hd4desktop.com

I have no idea what species of orchid is in Laurent Mazzone’s Sensual Orchid, but I can tell you it smells wonderful! The fragrance opens on my skin with a burst of booziness. It’s pure cognac, as explicit, sharp, liqueured and slightly fruity as very aged, extremely expensive cognac can be. The note is then followed by: the richest ylang-ylang; custardy, rich vanilla; a hint of smoky woods; and bitter, green-white almonds.

On their heels is a delicate, pastel, floral note as crystal clear, clean, bright and sparkling as a bell rung at the top of the Swiss alps. It smells of lilies, peonies, hyacinth, rose, jasmine, vanilla — all wrapped into one in a cool, clean, crystal liquidity. It is all of those things, and, yet, none of those things. It’s a floral orchid in 3D. Mixed with the powerful ylang-ylang and the sweet vanilla, backed by that boozy cognac fruitedness, the final result is incredibly narcotic, dramatic, opulent, and heady.

Source: Foundwalls.com

Source: Foundwalls.com

Other notes are layered underneath. The orchid has a coconut characteristic that Dr. Covey talked about above, as well as some sort of subtle, intangible, sweet spiciness. There is also a whiff of juicy, sun-sweetened mandarin, lying heavy and ripe on the branch. The heliotrope’s almond note is interwoven throughout, and the whole thing sits atop a base of white woods with slightly smoky cedar.

Within minutes, the cognac’s sharpness softens, as the vanillic, creamy, floral facets of the orchid increase, along with a sensuous muskiness and the coconut. The latter feels both like chunks of the fresh fruit, and its rich cream. My feelings about coconut generally range from ambivalence to dislike, especially if there is a suntan oil feel or anything cloying. On my skin, Sensual Orchid manages the feat of having a rich coconut scent that is nothing like Hawaiian Tropics, and yet, conveys a wholly tropical feel in a very light way. I have no idea why I find it so intoxicating, but I think it’s the overall combination of notes that renders Sensual Orchid a very sensuous, compulsively sniffable experience.

Model Lara Stone, French Vogue.

Model Lara Stone, French Vogue.

There is a very classique richness to the scent, but it also has a very modern feel. Sensual Orchid is very airy in feel, though it is also extremely potent, heady, and strong in projection. Not Amouage or ’80s powerhouse levels of potency, but definitely enough to wrap you in a very shimmering haze. Despite the old-school richness, nothing about the fragrance feels dated or centered on traditional tropes. Sensual Orchid doesn’t call to mind the famous Dior models of old in their New Look dresses, or the grand dames of Chanel. It’s not a scent that I would associate with Guerlain’s divas, but with a very fashion-forward, confident, strong woman who is assured enough to flaunt her own sensuality. She is the sort who would wear Sensual Orchid with a skimpy dress to go out clubbing, then come home to toss the bottle in her carry-on bag and go on a quick, impromptu, romantic, weekend get-away to St. Barts. 

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Thirty minutes in, Sensual Orchid shifts a little. The dry, slightly smoked cedar stirs more prominently in the base. Up on top, the jasmine now appears to dance a merry quartet with the ylang-ylang, the orchid’s coconut, and the vanilla. The peony, the almonds, and that lingering, crystal clear, liquid note that feels so much like lilies, all look on from the sidelines and clap. From afar, the fragrance smells like an extremely seamless, well-blended bouquet of boozy sweetness, indolic flowers, and creamy vanilla. Up close, it’s almost too powerful and rich, with an opulent depth that reminds me of Amouage‘s Ubar mixed with some of my beloved Alahine‘s boozy overlay. 

Sensual Orchid is a rather linear scent, and its core essence never changes. Over the next few hours, the differences are primarily ones of strength, deepness, and projection. At the end of the first hour, Sensual Orchid becomes smoother, richer, and deeper. The boozy cognac fades away, the mandarin orange retreats to the edges, and the fragrance feels mellower as a whole. By the 2.5 hour mark, the fragrance feels like a soft cloud. I wish the notes were better delineated with less overlap and haziness, but Sensual Orchid is nonetheless an intoxicating swirl of creamy, indolic, sweet florals, infused with vanilla, touches of coconut, and the vaguest whisper of dry cedar. The word “lush” keeps coming to mind, along with visuals of a billowing white and yellow cloud, and scantily clad women with golden skin. On occasion, the image is that of a naked woman on a beach because there is a clean, warmed muskiness to Sensual Orchid that feels like heated skin touched with a shimmering, floral, slightly tropical oil. It’s never animalic or sweaty, it’s not even a very prominent note, but it adds to the languid sensuality of the fragrance.

Model Isabeli Fonatana for Muse Magazine via trendhunter.com

Model Isabeli Fonatana for Muse Magazine via trendhunter.com

Near the end of the fourth hour, Sensual Orchid hovers as a potent veil just above the skin. It’s a blend of ripe, blooming white florals infused by a dry woodiness, and the subtlest hint of booziness. The jasmine, ylang-ylang and orchid are fused together as one. The vanilla has now turned almost dry, thanks to the impact of the cedar and its quietly smoked character. The coconut is almost silent, and the almond has vanished. The mandarin which was never an integral part of Sensual Orchid on my skin is now merely a vague suggestion that pops up occasionally, but you have to sniff damn hard to really notice it. Finally, there is a tinge of synthetics in the base, whether from the “white woods” or from something else, but it’s muted, minor, and soon fades away.

Sensual Orchid remains that way until the middle of the seventh hour when it finally turns wholly abstract. It’s a soft, nebulous, indolic, musky floral sweetness that covers the skin like the finest silk lingerie. In its final hours, Sensual Orchid is merely a trace of sweetness, muskiness and abstract white flowers. All in all, it lasted just over 14 hours with very strong projection for the first 2 hours, then good to moderate sillage for a number of hours, before ending as a soft, unobtrusive veil for about 6 hours. It only became a true skin scent around the middle of eighth hour. I used about 3 small sprays. While aerosolisation definitely increases both longevity and projection, Sensual Orchid is generally a strong fragrance with a very soft weight that I think is intended to go from hardcore diva glam, down to an increasingly intimate scent, before ending as a “my skin but better” musky sweetness in its final stage.

At no time is Sensual Orchid an edgy or revolutionary scent, but it’s a very luxurious, opulent, and sexy one. It feels like the sort of perfume that a woman would to seduce, and consistently calls to mind the image of a woman in lingerie, lying languidly on a bed as she awaits her lover. It’s a scent that seems intentionally meant to intoxicate and captivate a romantic partner with its narcotic sensuality and brazenly diva-ish, dramatic headiness. Part of it is the sheer indolic nature of those lush, ripe, blooming white florals, and part of it is the quiet, golden muskiness of the scent combined with the creaminess of both the ylang-ylang and the vanilla.

Photo: Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott for Roberto Cavalli feat. Elisabetta Canalis. Source: CityinAds.com

Photo: Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott for Roberto Cavalli feat. Elisabetta Canalis. Source: CityinAds.com

I couldn’t find a single blog review for Sensual Orchid, either in-depth or otherwise. However, the fragrance does come up in two Basenotes discussions. One is a thread in the Men’s Fragrance Discussion section called “SUPERNICHE- Best Frag No One Has Heard Of,” and asks for suggestions. Sensual Orchid is the very first name given by a male poster called “Hednic.” Later, down below, another commentator adds: “This whole LM line has some real crackers – Sensual Orchid but hey guys we got Black Oud by LM too which is really well done! We gonna hear a lot more about LM I assure you.” Sensual Orchid gets mentioned again in a very short thread from August 2013 in the Female Fragrance Discussion section about LM Parfums in general. The original poster purchased a bottle from Italy for supposedly $190 and thought Sensual Orchid was “soooo gorgeous!”

You may wonder why I’m bringing up the location of the Basenotes threads. It’s because I think Sensual Orchid can work on a guy’s skin, and there are clearly men on Basenotes who agree and have no hesitation saying so in a discussion of Men’s Fragrances. Yes, Sensual Orchid is a very lush, floral scent that skews feminine, but I happen to think that a confident, assured man could rock this type of fragrance just as much as an Amouage oudh or Creed’s Aventus. Perhaps not every guy would feel comfortable with orchid and vanilla, but dammit, they should be! Sensual Orchid would smell unbelievably hot on a guy’s skin, and I’m not budging from that belief, all my photos of scantily clad women notwithstanding.

Lastly, I have to talk about the price. Sensual Orchid costs $225 or €195. While that may seem a lot, it’s for 100 ml of extrait de parfum. When was the last time any of you saw that concentration being offered in a 100 ml size and for a price less than some smaller eau de parfums?! I never have. 15 ml for Rubj Parfum extrait is $325! 50 ml of Amouage’s Lyric Extrait costs $470, and it’s half the size of Sensual Orchid. Puredistance’s Opardu is also an extrait that comes in a 100 ml size, but it costs $590! My point is that Sensual Orchid is a gorgeous fragrance whose price may seem high, but it’s almost a steal for what it is, let alone as compared to the price of other niche extraits on the market.

Now, I realise it’s almost sadistic to bring up a fragrance that my American readers can’t sniff or test unless they live in New York. For that, I deeply apologise. As part of my penance, I’d like to offer one reader a small sample from my own decant. It won’t be much, just around 1 ml, but my own decant is very small and I’d like to have a bit of Sensual Orchid to wear when I go on holiday at the end of the month. So, in the comments below, leave a comment letting me know if you’re interested.

Given LM Parfums’ wide availability in Europe and New Yorkers’ access to it at Osswald, I’m afraid this mini-drawing will be limited to American readers who do not live in New York City’s Tri-State Area or have access to Osswald. You have until Friday, September 13th at 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST) in the U.S. to let me know if you’d like to be entered. I will select a name using Random.org at some point the next day, and will update the end of this review with the winner’s name. So, check back Saturday the 14th, and if you’re the winner, you have three days (until Tuesday, September 17th) to contact me at the blog email with your shipping address. (Failure to contact me in the appropriate time frame means I’ll give the sample to someone else.) If lush, floral Orientals are your cup of tea, and if you’re not bothered by sweetness or indolic headiness, then I think you may like Sensual Orchid.

[UPDATE: GIVEAWAY & General Samples: Random.org has chosen and the winner of a small sample is POODLE! Please contact me with your address, and I’ll send some Sensual Orchid off to you. 

For everyone else who wants to test the perfume, Osswald has a fantastic deal that I would strongly recommend in general: 10 samples for $10, with free shipping in the U.S., and it’s for any perfumes that they stock! That means Profumum, the full LM Parfums line, and some other goodies only found at OsswaldNY for less than a $1 a vial! The deal is only available for telephone orders, however, so you have to call (212) 625-3111. I hope you take advantage of it to try Sensual Orchid and some of the Profumum line that I love so much!]

[UPDATE – 10/17/2013 – If the OsswaldNYC link to Sensual Orchid doesn’t work, it’s because Osswald is currently sold out of the fragrance. Rather than update the page with a notice that they are awaiting more stock and are temporarily sold out, they take down the whole page. It’s stupid, but that’s what they do, according to a Twitter response that I got. Osswald informed me that they should get more LM Parfums in soon, but gave no precise date. In the meantime, you can directly order from LM Parfums or from their Premiere Avenue store (which is also owned by Laurent Mazzone). Both sites offer a good-sized decant of Sensual Orchid for a very reasonable €19.] 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Sensual Orchid is an extrait de parfum (or pure parfum) in concentration. It comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle that costs $225, €195 or £195. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances used to be European exclusives, but the range has just come to America. It’s sold exclusively at OsswaldNYC right now. Unfortunately, none of the U.S. perfume sample sites currently offer samples of this fragrance. I hope that will soon change, and I try to remember to update this post at that time. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can buy Sensual Orchid directly from LM Parfums for €195. Samples are also available for €19, and come in a good 5 ml size. In the UK, the LM Parfums line is carried exclusively at Harvey Nichols which sells Sensual Orchid for £195. In France, you can find Sensual Orchid and the 5 ml sample at Laurent Mazzone’s own Premiere Avenue. In Paris, it’s sold at Jovoy. Germany’s First in Fragrance carries the full line and sells Sensual Orchid for €196, in addition to samples. You can also find Sensual Orchid at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Netherlands, you can find Sensual Orchid at Parfumaria. There are many Russian vendors for LM Parfums, but one site carrying Sensual Orchid is SpellSmell. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well.