Perfume Review – Hermès Paprika Brasil: Chilies & Woods

Shakespeare was right when he said that a rose, by any other name, still smells as sweet. However, a name can be bloody important! In perfumery, a name can convey either a wealth of details about the type of scent a perfumer has made, or the sort of impression that a perfume seeks to evoke. A name can also lead to great expectations (to bring up Dickens this time), followed by a great, whacking THUMP of disappointment as the consumer falls down the cliff to a different reality. Exhibit No. 1 for that would be Chanel‘s Coco Noir which is neither Coco nor Noir, and as such was met with howls of disappointment from many perfumistas.

Paprika BrasilExhibit No. 2 would be Paprika Brasil from Hermès. It was released in 2006 as part of Hermès’ exclusive, in-store Hermessence line of fragrances and created by Hermès’ in-house perfumer, Jean-Claude Ellena, a legendary perfumer who was recently called by Der Spiegel “the best ‘nose’ in the world.” Ellena is known for his minimalistic approach to ingredients, and for perfumes that always have depth and complexity, despite seeming sheer and transparent. That sheerness is rather a signature of his and, for some, was taken to unfortunate extremes with Paprika Brasil.

An even greater problem was the name itself which led to certain perceptions of what the perfume would entail. A number of the negative reviews explicitly mention that the reviewer thought the perfume would be something very different than what it was and, as such, was a disappointment. Victoria at Bois de Jasmin felt that way, saying “I feel particularly disappointed with this latest creation. Perhaps, it is due to my high expectations.” However, no-one was quite as blunt about it as Robin at Now Smell This who wrote:

My initial trials of Paprika Brasil cannot be described in any way other than disappointing, and the experience points to the dangers of building up expectations based on the fragrance name, back story and notes. I suppose what I was expecting was a deep woods scent with exotic spices, something that would evoke the jungles of Brazil before the impact of globalization, where Lévi-Strauss was said to have found “a human society reduced to its most basic expression”.

Jean-Claude Ellena. Source:CaFleureBon

Jean-Claude Ellena. Source:CaFleureBon

On the Hermès website, Jean-Claude Ellena describes Paprika Brasil as “[t]he ravaging power of paprika and brasil wood, tempered by iris. Seductive, passionate, unexpected.” He adds:

A tinctorial wood to colour fabrics red, ‘brasil wood’ gave its name to the country. With its power of suggestion, “bois de braise” sparked my imagination and I chose paprika to illustrate it. By mixing and matching, I recreated its scent, which is more secretive and discreet than its taste.

The Fragrantica classifies Paprika Brasil as “Woody Spicy”, but it doesn’t list the full notes. NST states that they include:

pimento, clove, paprika, iris, green leaves, reseda, ember wood (aka Brazilwood or Pernambuco) and woody notes.

I had read the reviews of Paprika Brasil before trying it and — since I have a tendency to root for the under-dog — I was initially quite huffily indignant on the poor perfume’s behalf! It was quite fascinatingly original at the start, and I was baffled by the degree of contempt and animosity which Paprika Brasil has engendered in some.

Pimento chilies.

Pimento chilies.

My immediate reaction to the opening seconds was, “Oh my God, I smell like a chili pepper!” There was an astonishingly powerful, sharp burst of red pimento chilies, followed by green bell peppers, cloves and a touch of paprika. (I wrote in my notes: “Add lettuce, ranch salad sauce, and I’m lunch?”) The paprika is never particularly strong on me, Bell Pepperthough others have reported a different experience, but the green bell pepper is very prominent. It is tamed about ten minutes in, countered by the advent of wood notes that are faintly smoky, peppery and spicy.

Brazilwood or the Pernambuco tree.

Brazilwood or the Pernambuco tree.

Twenty minutes in, a soft green note unfurls, like leaves opening in the sun, and there is the start of the iris note. The perfume has quickly progressed from a chili-vegetable scent into something entirely different and, frankly, it’s rather astonishing. It’s turned into a very airy rendition of spicy, peppery woods with a touch of green and the softening note of floral iris. I found it very original and quite fascinating. I sniffed my arm constantly and with a smile, always wondering about those incredibly dismissive and often caustically sneering reviews.

The scent is translucent in a way and, yet, also strong. It doesn’t project outwardly with vast trails, but what you do smell is quite noticeable. Or, perhaps, I’m merely surprised by the strength given that a commentator on Basenotes disdainfully dismissed Paprika Brasil as “one of Ellena’s more anemic and evanescent efforts.” This is not my definition of “anemic.”

Harvesting the iris root. Source: Weleda UK

Harvesting the iris root.
Source: Weleda UK

As time progresses, 2.5 hours in, the wood notes start to dominate. They are both smoky (black) and spicy (red chili). I wonder if some of the Brazilian reseda or ember woods used have an aroma similar to guaiac because I smell the same sort of black peppery notes here.  The iris has also emerged to great extent. It is oddly both floral and earthy at the same time, as though Ellena used both the orris root and the flowers. It’s never powdery, though there is a faint, subtle, almost microscopic element of powder hovering around the edges. As several commentators on Basenotes also found, the contrasting floral and earthy notes counter the dryness of the wood and spices.

It’s at this time that my feelings start to change about Paprika Brasil. It started to wear me down a little. By the end, about 4.5 hours all in all, I had completely reversed my position and had enough. I don’t know if it was the linearity or the constant pepper accord but something had become too much. There were so many conflicted thoughts darting through my mind.

For one thing, where on earth would I wear this scent??! The supermarket produce aisle would seem to be the most logical choice, since I certainly would not wear this out on a date or to a party! As we’ll discuss shortly, it’s not cheap, so it’s far too expensive for the dog park. And, frankly, that may be the only place where I wouldn’t be embarrassed to smell like chili peppers. I live in Texas. There is a Mexican food place every few blocks. (I cannot stand Mexican food, if I might add.) Paprika Brasil’s green bell pepper may have been apparent mostly in the opening, but the red chilies are constant and, due to where I live, the mental associations are inevitable. (Salsa, anyone?)

The Hairy German

The Hairy German

I spent an inordinate amount of time attempting to determine what might have been a better, more accurate, potentially less disappointing name for the perfume — and concluded that the task is a lot harder than it seems. Neither “Chili Woods” or “Peppered Woods” has much élan. Nor does “Airy Pimento” or “Peppered Iris.” Frankly, I’m at a bit of a loss with regard to all aspects of this scent, and it must have shown because I suddenly noticed The Hairy German watching my face with great concern.

One thing that bewilders me is how different my experience was from many others. Victoria on Bois de Jasmin found this a cold, “watery and limpid” fragrance:

In comparison to the other fragrances from Hermessence collection, I find Paprika Brasil to have the least presence and impact. Theoretically, the weightlessness and the airy quality of spices and woods is interesting, but as a whole, the composition appears watery and limpid, a sketch that never seems to attain the form one wishes it to possess. Being an admirer of Jean-Claude Ellena’s work and Hermessence Collection, I feel particularly disappointed with this latest creation. Perhaps, it is due to my high expectations. Perhaps, it is because I already have encountered two fragrances this year that explore the same theme of cool rocks and damp earth via iris and green notes with much more interesting results– Eau d’Italie Sienne L’Hiver and L’Artisan Parfumeur Dzongkha. Paprika Brasil appears to me like a modern art piece, without a key to understanding its concept.

NST also found it wan, though it classifies Paprika Brasil as a predominantly iris fragrance:

It is first and foremost an iris fragrance, and a sheer one at that. The top notes have the same feel of rooty carrot that you find in Hermès Hiris, but without the sharp metallic twang. There is a slight whisper of green, and a dusting of dry paprika, and yes, there are woods, but the whole is extraordinarily muted, and easily has the least presence of any of the Hermessences so far.

As a rule, I like sheer and muted. It is one of the reasons I admire Jean Claude Ellena: he can work magic without shouting, and while using a very limited palette. But Paprika Brasil feels almost wan, and so entirely fails to live up to its name that it is hard, quite honestly, to find a way to approach it with an open mind. Last night and again this morning, I tried it next to a group of my favorite iris scents, and it failed to make much of a showing.

I’ve only tried Ambre Narguilé thus far from the Hermessence collection, so I can’t compare how Paprika Brasil measures up to the line as a whole. Taking just Ambre Narguilé as a point of comparison, yes, it is far more robust, but Paprika Brasil is hardly a weak, wan, cold scent on my skin. It’s all hot chilies and peppered woods. It’s monotonous, exhausting and, ultimately, the furthest thing from versatile, but it’s not cold and reminiscent of “cool rocks”! None of the commentators on Basenotes found such coldness either, but, rather, dryness, paprika, iris and woods. To the extent that it doesn’t have much depth, body or complexity, then perhaps, yes, Paprika Brasil is “watery” in that sense — but only in that sense.

My experience seems tiny bit closer to that of Marina from Perfume-Smellin’ Things who noted the predominance of  the chili note, but who ultimately found Paprika Brasil to be a huge disappointment:

The spicy notes bear a promise of a scent that is red-hot, fiery, supremely piquant, but Paprika Brasil is much more tame then what the presence of pimento, paprika and clove might suggest. It starts green and dry, making me think of twigs and indeed green leaves. A delicate spicy accord is woven into that greenness, it grows stronger as the scent develops but is always kept in check by the leaves and the wood and the cool earthiness of iris (which is very apparent on my skin). The spice that I smell here is mostly pimento and it is a beautiful note, crimson, dry and appealingly sharp; it saddens me that this attractive piquancy was not allowed to be more prominent. No, I don’t want a scent where other notes are overwhelmed by the spices, but neither do I like the idea of a scent where the spices are beaten into submission by the rather pale and unexciting rest of the ingredients. Dusty-green, too dry, too delicate, dull and fleeting, Paprika Brasil was a bitter disappointment for this fan of the other five scents in the Hermessence series.

I didn’t find Paprika Brasil to be so green, delicate or pale, and the spices were always there, permeating the iris and wood notes. However, at the end of the day, it was simply just too exhausting to wear.

The opportunity to smell like a bell pepper, then iris and chili-ed woods, does not come cheaply. Paprika Brasil costs $235 and is sold only in the large 100ml/3.4 oz bottles directly from Hermès itself (whether online or via its boutiques). It doesn’t come in any other size and only comes in the eau de toilette concentration.

The Hermès travel or gift set.

The Hermès travel or gift set.

However, and this part is key, Hermès sells a travel or gift set of four 15 ml/0.5 oz bottles for $145. You can get 4 bottles of any perfumes in the Hermessence line, or all 4 can be the same perfume. In short, for $145, you would be getting 60 ml or about 2.0 oz of perfume, which is more than the standard 1.7 oz bottles for perfumes. As such, it is a much more manageable price. If you want to smell like iris and pimento-ed wood, that is.

I don’t.

DETAILS:
Paprika Brasil is available on Hermès’ website at the link provided above. Samples are available at a number of sites, as well as on eBay (which is where I obtained my 4 ml vial). Surrender to Chance sells samples starting at $3.99 for the smallest size. As always, I think they have the best shipping prices, so I would start  there if you’re interested in testing out the perfume.

Preliminary Review – Chanel Les Exclusifs 1932: Sparkling Jasmine

In 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, Chanel launched her first collection of haute jewelry. It consisted of diamonds set in platinum and was shown in an exhibit entitled “Bijoux de Diamants.” In 2012, on the 80th Anniversary of that exhibit, Chanel debuted a new fine jewelry collection and, in homage, called it The 1932 Collection.

Le-parfum-1932-de-ChanelSometime in early 2013, Chanel will release the perfume that goes along with that collection. It too is called, quite simply, 1932 and it is part of Chanel’s Les Exclusifs line of fragrances. The date for its release seems to be February 1, 2013, though I have read one report of March 1, 2013.

I have a large sample of 1932 already, but there is no official information on the perfume, no press release, no listing on Chanel’s website, and only a few unconfirmed details. So, I set out to discover more about the perfume prior to reviewing it. Two attempts to ascertain notes or details from Chanel were unsuccessful. The only thing that seemed certain beyond all doubt is that 1932 is a jasmine scent that comes in Eau de Toilette concentration. So, I played amateur detective, relying on a photo of a 1932 perfume box, its listed ingredients, and Google. You can read about my efforts in full detail here, but the bottom line is that the only definite notes in 1932 thus far seem to be:

jasmine, iris and musk.

Relying on the perfume box’s list of ingredients and all the sources available to me thusChanel 1932 far, I hazarded a vague guess that the notes may include some or all of the following:

Jasmine, rose or some possible rose enhancers (farnesol), bergamot (or lavender or coriander), cinnamon, cloves, violet or orris/iris, coumarin (hay), musk and possibly vetiver.

Again, you can read all the reasons why I came to that conclusion in the Sneak Peek post.

I am the very first to say that I am no perfume expert, and even less so when it comes to chemical terms and the technical aspect of perfume ingredients. I have tried to do the best that I can, with the limited information and resources available to me, but I’m sure my attempts to translate terms like “hexyl cinnamal,” “linalool,” or “farnesol” may have gone array somewhere.

Nonetheless, I think I have a mildly competent nose (I hope), so I can give you preliminary idea of what 1932 is like. Later, when Chanel releases press information, details of 1932’s notes, pricing and availability, I will do a proper review and include other people’s perceptions or reviews of the scent so that you can get a better, fuller idea as to what it is like.

For the meantime, however, I’m working totally blind on this — much like someone standing before a Mexican piñata while blind-folded, and attempting to hit something accurately. Let’s take a leap into the deep-end together.

1932 opens on me with a strong burst of bright lemon. It’s so fresh and zesty, I feel as though someone just cut into a lemon in front of me and squirted some drops of its juices on my skin. That immediate burst of freshness is followed almost seconds later by a massive dose of aldehydes. (You can read more about aldehydes in the Glossary.) Here, they smell soapy, waxy and candle-like. The lemon quickly melts into the aldehydes, creating the impression of soapy lemon wax. There is also the impression of something floral, akin to rose, but it is almost imperceptible under that thick veil of aldehydes. Along side, there is faintly powdery iris, but, again, the whole thing is subsumed under the sheer force of the aldehydes.

For full clarity, I should note that I tested out 1932 twice to ensure I had as accurate a sense about the perfume as possible. And, with one exception, 1932 was consistently the same throughout. The difference was a slight variation in the opening. The second time I tested 1932, there was a hefty dose of coumarin with its strong notes of sweet hay that appeared almost immediately after the lemon note. (In fact, if I sniff the vial to my decant, the predominant impression is of lemon followed by hay.) Unfortunately, the hay note is a bit of a ghost throughout this perfume. As you will read later, it pops up, vanishes, comes back, flits away, and so on. It is both maddening and quite enchanting, but then I love coumarin. With the exception of coumarin’s appearance in the opening the second time around, the rest of the perfume’s development continued on the same trajectory in both tests.

Two minutes in, the jasmine makes an appearance. It is timid, as if raising its bonneted head above the field of waxy soap and dappled lemon. The jasmine is sweet, light and demure, verging on the insubstantial. How could it possibly compete with those forceful aldehydes? This is probably the time to confess that I am not a particular fan of aldehydic fragrances and that this opening makes me sigh a little, though it is never as extreme or as unbearable as some perfumes. Even for someone like myself who dislikes the note, this is very manageable.

Fifteen minutes in, the jasmine becomes a much stronger player on 1932’s stage. It is heady, but there is a surprising sheerness and airiness to the scent. It is not an indolic or over-ripe scent — and jasmine can be one of the most indolic flowers around! (You can read more about Indoles and Indolic scents at the Glossary.) Indolic flowers can often have a rubbery element to the narcotic richness at their heart; over-blown ripeness that, sometimes, can verge almost on the side of decay. These indoles are the reason why some people get the impression of “rotting fruit,” sourness, urine, plastic, or Hawaiian flowers. Here, I don’t smell anything verging on over-ripe or full-blown; there is no rubberiness, no rotting fruit and, certainly, no decay. However, I do occasionally get faint whiffs of something slightly sour emanating from my arm. It’s extremely mild, never constant, and quite fleeting.

Thirty minutes in, 1932’s aldehydes have faded and jasmine takes full center stage. It is significantly stronger, though still airy, and is now accompanied by musk. There are also faint banana undertones to the scent. I have no idea if they are yet another manifestation of the aldehydes (which can take on a banana accord in addition to the lemon, waxy, soapy one) or if they are the result of something else. Such as, for example, ylang-ylang.

One person who has already tried 1932 says that there is ylang-ylang and sandalwood in the scent. On Perfume Shrine (a blog which first broke the story of 1932 over a year ago in early 2012), a poster by the name of Henrique/Rick wrote the following description this week on the site’s latest entry about the perfume:

Well, in the case of this fragrance, i’m pretty sure that it’s not hedione, since the jasmine used on it has a slightly fruity, yellow aspect on the aroma, while the hedione is more green to my nose. This is a lovely Chanel, very true to the classics. Altough the jasmine is highlighted, this is not a heavy jasmine fragrance. It starts with a exquisite blend of aldehydes, iris and ylang-ylang, then leaving space for the jasmine to shine, and at the base revisiting the jasmine and combining it with a gorgeous woody base of sandalwood supported by some musks. It’s really well done, there was a long time that i didn’t smell a Chanel that i wanted to glue my nose on my arm from the first moment until the last on skin.

Henrique/Rick’s comment is the sole description or impression of 1932 that I can find anywhere on the internet at this point. I agree with him on much of his description, especially the aldehydes. (How could one miss them?!) I also agree on the iris, but I’m not absolutely convinced on the ylang-ylang or the sandalwood. Yes, they could be there. But then again, the banana smell could easily come from the aldehydes; and jasmine by itself can be as heady, ripe and creamy as ylang-ylang.

Henrique/Rick is probably correct that “hedione” (a jasmine molecule first discovered in 1962) is not included here. For one thing, hedione is not listed on the box, though obviously that’s not dispositive. Perfume boxes don’t always list all the ingredients, after all! But the real thing is, one doesn’t have to use hedione to create a jasmine scent. According to a detailed explanation of how to create jasmine scents by Pierre Benard, a Grasse perfumer interviewed on Fragrantica, there are other ways to replicate the flower’s note. One way is to combine “Indol plus Benzyl Benzoate” with some eugenol for a green note. I see the eugenol and Benzyl Benzoate on 1932’s box, so maybe that is the route Chanel decided to take here. I certainly don’t smell the green note that Henrique/Rick attributes to hedione but, like him, a much more yellow, fruity aspect.

We part ways on the issue of sandalwood. If it’s included in 1932, it was almost nonexistent on my skin the first time round. The second time round, I could smell something vaguely approximating it, I suppose, but it was extremely faint. The impression may well have come from another ingredient entirely. I think back to Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s repeated comments in “Perfumes: the A-Z Guide” on just how few sandalwood fragrances actually have sandalwood in them at all these days. According to them, true sandalwood from Mysore, India is so scarce and so prohibitively expensive that most perfumers use Australian sandalwood which is an entirely different species of plant and with an entirely different scent. To the extent that 1932 may have sandalwood in it (of any kind), I think it is completely overshadowed and overpowered by the musk.

In that first hour, there was an unexpected element to 1932 in my first test. For some inexplicable reason, there was a slight earthiness to the scent on one arm accompanied by definite notes of mildew. It was faint but, there is no doubt, I smelled mildew! It’s not musty, so much as faintly moldy and a bit damp, if that makes sense. I can only attribute it to iris note which I’m guessing is from orris root; distillations from the roots of a flower or plant can have a faintly earthy smell, and that is much more the case than when the flower above earth is used. But I’m still not quite sure what causes the mildew note unless it is the combination of the orris root with the musk. The second time around, I didn’t smell mildew precisely, but there was a similarly damp and slightly earthy note. This time, it was faintly musty. Nonetheless, it was extremely subtle and subsumed by the stronger musk note.

1932 remains a predominantly musky jasmine smell for about two hours and then two new players arrive on the stage. The first is bergamot. It isn’t overwhelming but neither is it so faint as to be imperceptible. It’s a bit of a surprise, to be honest, especially for it to show up at this point instead of in the opening. But I definitely smell traces of Earl Grey Tea! It adds a note of freshness and depth to a scent that was essentially quite simple thus far.

The second player is coumarin. As noted earlier, the coumarin note is almost like a playful ghost: it appears with such freshness and sweetness, then it suddenly vanishes entirely, only to reappear and pop back up 10 minutes later, before flitting away again. Its coy disappearing act continues throughout the development of 1932. Each time, however, the coumarin smells exactly like freshly mowed hay! It never has the vanilla undertones that the ingredient may sometimes have. It adds a bit of dryness and a subtle woodsy element to the sweet jasmine; it also tends to make 1932 a scent that some jasmine-loving men could wear as well.

The final hours of 1932 are very simple. It is really just jasmine and musk with an almost imperceptible touch of something woody. It’s soft, light, and silky on the skin like a fine negligée. And that’s about it.

At no time did I smell the cinnamon or cloves which I had guessed might be in the perfume due to the ingredient list on the perfume box. Nor did I perceive any obvious or strong vetiver notes, even though the French Marie-Claire site had stated vetiver was in the perfume. To the extent that vetiver roots can contribute to an earthy element in perfumes, then perhaps that was the cause of the faintly musty, earthy impression that I had at one point. But I highly doubt it; I really don’t smell vetiver! (And I just reviewed Chanel’s vetiver scent, Sycomore, yesterday, so I am familiar with both the note and how Chanel may handle it.) No,1932 is not a green or green-brown scent in any way; it is all yellow and white, with perhaps a little beige from the musk.

ChandelierI have the oddest perception of 1932 as a crystal chandelier. Not all of its prism drops have been properly cleaned, and some have a thin film on them, as if from the remnants of soap. Others prisms, in contrast, are clear and reflect the light, shooting off coloured rays of lemon, jasmine and musk when the sun catches them. It’s overall shimmer is so subtle as to be imperceptible at times. Sometimes, it’s a bit dull and dusty. Sometimes, bright and shiny. But whenever the light hits it, there is a sparkle in Chandelier reflectionsthe reflection, even if it only hits the walls around it. In those cases, the jasmine sparkles with a sort of evanescent glow.

That said, I wasn’t overwhelmed by 1932. It is most definitely not love at first sniff, or even third. It is a perfectly nice, even lovely, scent that oozes very discreet, very expensive, elegant trails behind it. It is simultaneously somewhat heady but, yet, also sheer and light. But it is far too demure, nondescript and soft for me. I don’t find it particularly complex, transformative, or unique. At the same time, however, I think it is undeniably well-blended with ingredients that are obviously of extremely high-quality. It is hugely approachable, and will undoubtedly be a massive hit with those who like soft florals, jasmine fragrances and/or unobtrusive feminine scents.

All in all, it really and truly embodies the classique Chanel woman — though not a very modern one. To me, it calls to mind one of those 1950s aristocratic, wealthy leaders of high-society, or one of Alfred Hitchcock’s icy blondes. Impeccably dressed with pearls and gloves, hair frozen in a perfect coif, and extremely feminine, but also controlled, reserved, haughty, aloof and not-so-faintly superior. It is a fragrance that I can imagine a lot of women wearing every day. It is discreet, while being highly feminine, lady-like, and expensive-smelling. On the other hand, one might argue, it is also simple, boring, predictable, and faintly generic. There is nothing particularly electrifying or charismatic about it.

But you know what? I highly doubt it’s meant to be! This is a scent for the woman (or jasmine-loving man) who does not want to stand out in an ostensible manner. This is not for Maria Callas, Grace Kelly, or any famous person for that matter. This is for the quiet movers-and-shakers behind the scene who abhor the spotlight and who clutch their pearls (or cufflinks) at anything as remotely vulgar as obviousness. Quelle horreur! I think this is absolutely and intentionally meant to be a scent for the aristocratically discreet who want something safe and timeless that screams high-class, restraint and quiet wealth.

1932 accomplishes all that superbly.

Details:
Sillage & Longevity: The sillage and longevity of 1932 is adequate, in line with some others in the Exclusifs line which are said to be thin, sheer, and of short duration. (For example, 31 Rue Cambon or 28 La Pausa.) On me, 1932 had good projection for the first one and a half hours, thereafter becoming close to the skin. As for longevity, it was below-average even for my perfume-consuming skin. It only lasted a little bit above 4 hours, all in all. But, as always, remember that my body consumes perfume. Perhaps others will have more luck. At this time, it’s hard to know for certain what it would be like for the average, normal person.
Cost & Availability: There are limited details on either of these points. Thus far, I know that 1932 comes in Eau de Toilette concentration, but I don’t know if Chanel will release a parfum version as it has for three of its Exclusifs line (Bois des Iles, Gardénia & Cuir de Russie). As for cost, it will undoubtedly be the same as all the other Exclusifs eau de toilette fragrances which currently retail for $130 for a 2.5 oz/75 ml bottle or $230 for a 6.8 oz/200 ml bottle. In general, the Exclusifs line is only available in Chanel boutiques or on their website. At this time, however, I have no information as to when 1932 will be available outside of Chanel’s Paris store, or when it will be available on its website (either the U.S. one or the French one). As noted earlier, I will do a full, proper review with all the necessary information once the perfume officially launches and Chanel releases further details.

Perfume Review – Chanel Les Exclusifs Sycomore: Mighty Vetiver

Close your eyes and imagine you are in the heart of a forest at Yosemite National Park.

Source: Deby Dixon Photography

Source: Deby Dixon Photography

Cypress trees and evergreens intermingle and stretch far before you. The dark, dry earth is sprinkled with pine needles, and a wild boar is rooting at the tall grasses at the base of a tree, his endeavors lifting the smell of the earthy, chocolate-y roots into the air. Icicles hang from the branches where, nestled deep within, are purple juniper berries. In the heart of the forest, campfires burn thick logs of pine and cypress, and there is a smell of peppery smoke intermingling with the burning woods. Someone is cooking caramel, and burning it. You huddle deeper into your coat as the hint of frost brings a chill, but you can’t help but take a deeper breath of the vetiver surrounding you.

SycomoreGreen and brown, smoky and earthy, with a heart of cypress and wood — that is Chanel‘s Sycomore. It is an incredibly elegant smell, luxurious and leaving a smooth, trail of pure class oozing in its green-brown trail. It is richly masculine, with not a hint of florals, but this is silken masculinity in the most sophisticated, elegant of packages.

Sycomore was first introduced to the world in 1930, the creation of Chanel’s very famous, original perfumer, Ernst Beaux. From what I’ve read, it was all violet and tobacco with some support from soft aldehydes and balsamic wood. The original Sycomore vanished in the perfume mists, but it was re-envisioned and re-introduced in 2008 as an eau de toilette and as part of Chanel’s prestige collection called “Les Exclusifs.” It lesExclusifswas created by Chanel’s house perfumer, Jacques Polge, along with an equally famous “nose” in the industry, Christopher Sheldrake.

On its website, Chanel describes the new Sycomore as follows:

A rich-wood fragrance with a noble character — like the Sycomore tree that inspired it — created by CHANEL Master Perfumer Jacques Polge in 2008. At the heart of the scent: Vetiver, with an elegant Sandalwood note and dashes of Cypress, Juniper and Pink Pepper, for an earthy, warm and enveloping, yet subtle presence.

I think Chanel’s description nails it, unlike the Fragrantica‘s entry for Sycomore which seems completely incorrect in my opinion. Fragrantica puts Sycomore in the “Woody Floral Musk” category, and lists its notes as “vetiver, sandalwood, aldehydes, tobacco and violet.” I suspect both the categorization and the notes apply only to the 1930s version of Sycomore.

No, Chanel’s notes for Sycomore are the ones to follow and they are clearly listed by the Perfume Shrine as follows:

Vetiver, cypress, juniper, pink pepper, smoke, burning woods.

To get a true understanding of Sycomore, I think it’s important to elaborate a bit on the notes. For example, vetiver which not everyone is familiar with as an ingredient or as a smell, and which is the main part of Sycomore.  Chandler Burr, the former New York Times perfume critic, gave this extremely useful explanation to GQ:

vetiver-roots

Vetiver Roots.
Source: Herbariasoap.com

In the most basic sense, [vetiver is] a grass native to India that grows in bushes up to 4’x4′. It’s also related to lemon grass, as you can tell when you smell it. The stuff—it’s the grass’s long, thin roots that they distill—is infinitely more interesting though: deep, shadowed, astringent, earthy like newly tilled soil, and balsam-woody. It can be warm like tobacco leaves, it can have a crushed-green leaves freshness, or it can be cool like lemon verbena.

Haiti produces about 80% of the vetiver oil in the world, although sometimes you’ll be putting a bit of Indonesia or Brazil on your arm as well (Haiti’s is more floral, Java’s is smokier). There are folks producing it responsibly, too. When you buy a bottle of Terre d’Hermès, which is loaded with the stuff, you’re supporting around 2,000 Haitian farmers and distillers. […]

Like wine, the scent of vetiver oil improves as it ages: the best of it is made with roots that have been aged somewhere between 18-24 months; the oil costs around $200/kg when it hits the market. American scent maker IFF makes it three ways: with steam (resulting in vetiver essence, which is dryer and lighter), solvent (which produces an absolute and is darker, with the scent of rich dirt), and a new technology called “Molecular Distillation” that uses carbon dioxide to yield a scent that’s extraordinary—strongly grapefruit, fresher, zestier.

The Perfume Shrine says that the vetiver in Sycomore is said to be of the Haitian variety so, under Mr. Burr’s explanation, the more floral kind. I’m not an expert on any of the varieties, so I will take their word for it. All I know is that this vetiver smells exactly as Mr. Burr described: “deep, shadowed, astringent, earthy like newly tilled soil, and balsam-woody.”

Do you know how perfume can sometimes take on a colour aura before your eyes? WeaveSycomore opens on me all brown and green. Not khaki but some interwoven panel of dark green and green-brown. It calls to mind green roots and brown earth. Sycomore starts exactly like that, alongside pink peppercorns and an unexpected but definite note of chocolate. It’s almost like chocolate patchouli with vetiver. It’s so confusing that I go over the notes again and, still, I’m at a loss. So, I look up cypress wood which I’m not very familiar with, and that must be the explanation.

From my reading, it seems that cypress wood has a pungent, woody, spicy aroma that can also be sometimes resinous, coniferous, or cedar-like. Here, the combination of the cypress wood with the earthiness of the vetiver seems to have transformed the sum total into chocolate patchouli. You can smell each individual note, but you also have that strong overall impression.

It’s so striking that I looked to see if others had felt the same way. On Basenotes, one commentator also thought there was patchouli in Sycomore, though she concludes the cause was the combination of juniper and cypress. The Scent Critic blog and some on MakeupAlley also picked up on the chocolate edge. And finally, Victoria from Bois de Jasmin summed it up in her usual elegant succinctness: “The chocolate richness of the root is accented by the peppery and smoky notes. The composition possesses an alluring dark character, which in sensation alternates between the tannic dryness of red wine and the softly worn polish of aged woods.”

The chocolate and patchouli impression in Sycomore is so strong for the first hour that it evokes Serge LutensBorneo 1834 in its opening stages. So much so that I’m utterly bewildered by why people compare Chanel’s Coromandel (also from Les Exclusifs) with Borneo 1834, instead of Sycomore. Adding to the similarities between Borneo 1834 and Sycomore is the latter’s strong opening notes of tobacco and smoke. The tobacco note here is faintly bitter, and it is accompanied by a peppery, biting smoky note that is definitely woody.

I wonder about the “burning woods” note listed on many perfume reviews as an element (though not on Chanel’s website), and I keep thinking of guaiac wood. You can read the Glossary for more details but, in a nutshell, guaiac wood has an aroma that is earthy, smoky, tarry, peppery and similar to burning leaves. Tom Ford’s Amber Absolute is also said to have guaiac wood in it, though its official notes are equally vague and merely reference “rich woods” instead of “burning woods.” Both perfumes share a similarly woody, peppery, smoke note, so I have to wonder.

I do smell some sandalwood in Sycomore but, on me, it’s not strong at any point in the perfume’s development. Others have found it, but it’s just a whisper on me. I have to say, I doubt it is real Mysore sandalwood anyway. Anyone who has read Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s book, Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, will be struck by their repeated, insistent comments on just how few sandalwood fragrances actually have sandalwood in them at all these days. According to them, true sandalwood from Mysore, India is so scarce and so prohibitively expensive that most perfumers use Australian sandalwood which is an entirely different species of plant and with an entirely different scent. To the extent that Sycomore has sandalwood in it (of any kind), I think it is completely overshadowed and overpowered in the initial stages by the patchouli impression from the cypress and vetiver.

As Sycomore continues to unfurl, there is an impression of burnt caramel, black cocoa powder, incense and dry earth. This is like the black version of Coromandel, without the latter’s vanilla, benzoin and powder heart. The increasingly peppery and smoky nature of the perfume makes me wonder again if they used guaiac wood to fortify any “smoke” accord, not to mention the weak sandalwood. There are also flickering hints of evergreen from the juniper which add a coolness or chill that counters the smoky earthiness. It’s an incredibly sexy, darkly mysterious perfume.

There is a dryness to the rich, earthy smell that really calls to mind dirt — not rich, dank or loamy, but sweetly dry. I realise that non-perfumistas will recoil at the thought of smelling faintly like dirt, but there is really no other way to truly describe the undertones to the very smoked, rich, woody notes. The comparison to dirt also explains Luca Turin’s comments in his five-star review of Sycomore in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. There, he wrote:

The dream team at Chanel seem to delight in applying superior skills to existing ideas they deem worthy of perfecting: Coromandel was a reorchestration of Lutens’s Borneo 1834…. Sycomore is, in my view, a magisterial gloss on Bertrand Duchaufour’s Timbuktu [for L’Artisan Parfumeur]. The later introduced an Altoids-like idea to perfumery, consisting of a minty-licorice coolness combined with a radiant crackling-wood-fire note. […] Vetiver has both an anisic aspect and a smoky one. Cleverly flank it with Timbuktu’s two companions, add a big slug of sandalwood, and vetiver finds itself in worthy company at last. […] Sycomore [is] … the freshest, most salubrious, yet most satisfyingly rich masculine in years. If putting it on does not make you shiver with pleasure, see a doctor.

I’m surprised that Mr. Turin deems Sycomore one of the few sandalwood fragrance reviews not to warrant his usual comments about how perfumes don’t have real sandalwood in them any more, and I certainly don’t find the same “big slug” as he does, but I agree with the rest of his review. (Minus, his choice of which Chanel perfume to compare to Borneo 1834). I particularly understand his reference to Timbuktu which has often been described as having a dry dirt foundation. Sycomore has both the dirt aspects of Timbuktu and that slightly chilled licorice note underlying the earthiness of the dark patchouli…. er.. vetiver and cypress.

Mogambo 2

Mogambo

Perhaps it’s all that dry dirt and rich green which make me constantly imagine those old movies that explored the heart of an African forest — everything is slightly dark and smoky, mysterious and Tshadowy, all amidst lush greenness and dry red-brown dirt. I keep thinking of Clark Gable with Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner in Mogambo, or Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in African Queen. I could see either man wearing Sycomore, and Katherine Hepburn too (though never ever Grace Kelly or Ava Gardner).

As time passes, there is even greater depth to the impressions of burnt umber, burnt caramel, resins, saltiness, and earthiness — all under the forest’s canopy of green-brown vetiver and wood. The patchouli impression ceased being dominant a while ago; now it is the turn of the juniper. In general, juniper has an aroma that is fresh, sweet, and like pine trees, with a slightly balsam-like, resinous undertone. Here, they make I feel as though I’m walking through an icy forest at wintertime, my feet crunching on evergreen needles, the chilled smoke of winter in the air, as I walk towards campfires of burning pine logs where someone is cooking with dark chocolate and another person is accidentally burning the caramel. There is still the chocolate note, you see, though it is overshadowed by a more resinous, caramel element. There is also an undertone of anise and licorice.

In its drydown and final hours, all those things vanish, leaving mostly sweet, faintly lemony, grass. It is vaguely reminiscent of the lemongrass that Chandler Burr referenced. The sweetness of the grass may be one reason why a number of people smell marijuana or cannabis a few hours into Sycomore. I do not, but the occasional “ganja” comment is something worth noting if you’re tempted to try Sycomore. What I do smell, in addition to the sweet grass, is a sort of creaminess that I think comes from the sandalwood. As always, however, it is faint; even more of a shadow now than before.

There are two things which confused me about Sycomore. One, which I’ve already mentioned, is that it is Coromandel which is compared to Borneo 1834, when I think it should be this Polge and Sheldrake collaboration instead. (At least, for the opening hour. I don’t think Coromandel is remotely like Borneo 1834.) The second is a far more important issue: Chanel’s gender classification for this scent. Chanel has labeled Sycomore as a woman’s perfume and, to me, that is akin to saying M&Ms are only for women. It makes absolutely no sense at all.

Not only is Sycomore unisex, not only is it the furthest thing possible from “girly,” and not only do men adore this, but it is — I would argue — actually a masculine scent first and foremost. It may be a somewhat feminine masculine fragrance, but it is a masculine fragrance at its heart. In fact, women who have not explored niche scents and who are used to the more traditional, conventional or mass-market feminine fragrances — whether of the floral, “girly,” clean, sugary or gourmand variety — may find Sycomore to be overwhelmingly masculine and an utter shock if purchased blind. This is no Marc Jacob Lola, Guerlain Shalimar or Dior J’adore.

No, Sycomore has consistently been compared to men’s colognes. In fact, commentators on both Basenotes and Fragrantica find it to be an exact duplicate of Lalique‘s L’Encre Noire for Men (2006). A few people even bring up Hermès‘ men’s cologne, Terre d’Hermès — though most people on Basenotes find that much more citrus based and without anything close to the same degree of vetiver in it (no matter what Chandler Burr may think). I agree with that. I’ve got Terre d’Hermès and like it. But, like many on Basenotes, I find them to be very different perfumes and don’t think Terre d’Hermès is a predominantly vetiver scent. As a point of interest, in a Basenotes thread asking for people’s preference as between Sycomore and Terre d’Hermes, a monumental majority chose Sycomore as the better, more elegant, and truer vetiver fragrance.

All in all, Sycomore is an incredibly lovely fragrance and as smooth as silk. It is magnificently blended, such that everything folds into one rich layer upon another. There is a paradoxical coolness to its warmth, but it is never a chilly or aloof scent. It has too much earthiness in its beating heart, radiating its fire with every thump, thump, thump. It is never cloying, and there is not a single, synthetic, cheap note anywhere to be seen. It is truly as masterful and brilliant as so many thing. It is also a very approachable fragrance; it is not one of those edgy, discordant scents that can be worn only infrequently and are to be admired mostly on an intellectual basis as works of olfactory art. I can see men wearing this almost daily and some women frequently.

And, yet, it is not a fragrance for me. For the longest time, I could not pinpoint why. I like vetiver, I wear men’s cologne, and I like smoke and resinous scents. I find it an extremely elegant perfume and, really, it should push all my buttons. In fact, its opening led me to say “Wow” and I couldn’t stop sniffing my wrists for the first ten minutes. But, at the end of the day, it was simply too much vetiver and its dryness could well be described as bone-dry. Sahara dry. For my personal tastes, Sycomore simply veers too much into the masculine without any real sweetness to accompany it.

Nonetheless, if you are a fan of vetiver, woody and/or dry scents, I highly encourage you to test out Sycomore. If you’re not a fan of either of those three categories, then you may like the sweeter, softer Coromandel. (It is my favorite of the 3 Exclusifs that I’ve tried thus far). But if you’re not a fan of patchouli, benzoin or frankincense, then I fear you should skip that one too.

Have you tried Sycomore? If so, was it love at first sniff or simply not your cup of tea?

Details:
Sillage & Longevity: The sillage and longevity of Sycomore is impressive, particularly given that most of the Exclusifs line (with the exception of Coromandel) are said to be thin, sheer, and of short duration. On me, Sycomore had good projection for the first 3 hours, and only became close to the skin after 5 hours. As for longevity, it was above-average for my perfume-consuming skin. I could still smell faint traces of it after 9 hours. On others, I’ve read reports of it lasting almost an entire day.
Cost & Availability: Sycomore only comes in Eau de Toilette concentration and costs $130 for a 2.5 oz/75 ml bottle or $230 for a 6.8 oz/200 ml bottle.  The Exclusifs line is available only in Chanel stores or on their website. I have read numerous comments from people who have tried it at Selfridges in the UK, but did I not see a single Les Exclusifs fragrance on the Selfridges website. Nor have I found it on any U.S. department store websites. It’s not on Lucky Scent either. It is, however, available on Surrender to Chance which is where I obtained my sample. Prices for the smallest vial (1 ml) start at $3.

Perfume Review- Serge Lutens Chergui: The Desert Wind

africanduststorm

A fire fanned by the wind, a desert in flames.

As if bursting from the earth, Chergui, a desert wind, creates an effect that involves suction more than blowing, carrying plants, insects and twigs along in an inescapable ascent. Its full, persistent gusts crystallize shrubs, bushes and berries, which proceed to scorch, shrivel up and pay a final ransom in saps, resins and juices. Night falls on a still-smoldering memory, making way for the fragrant, ambery and candied aromas by the alchemist that is Chergui.

That is how Serge Lutens describes Chergui, a perfume for men and women created Cherguiwith Lutens’ favorite perfumer, Christopher Sheldrake. It was released in 2001 as a fragrance exclusive to Lutens’ Paris Palais Royal salon and was not available for export. In 2005, however, it was made available worldwide and became a monster hit.

In fact, in 2007, MakeupAlley apparently voted Chergui its #1 favorite perfume. It took that place above: Frederic Malle’s Musc Ravageur (#2), Hermès’ Ambre Narguilé (#3), Guerlain‘s Mitsouko (#8), Andy Tauer‘s L’Air du Desert Marocain (#10), Chanel No. 19 (#11), Chanel Bois de Iles (#12), Guerlain‘s Shalimar (#14), Chanel‘s Coco (#15), Guerlain‘s L’Heure Bleue (#19) and many other, much-loved fragrances. I don’t think I would vote Chergui my favorite scent, let alone of all time (vintage Opium will always have that spot), but I adore Chergui. It is absolutely lovely, and my favorite out of the seven Lutens perfumes that I’ve tried thus far. Until Chergui, I found myself admiring a Lutens fragrance more on an intellectual or theoretical basis, rather than an emotional one. I couldn’t find one that I would actually want to wear. Until now.

Fragrantica classifies Chergui as an “oriental spicy” and lists its notes as:

tobacco leaf, honey, iris, sandalwood, amber, musk, incense, rose and hay.

Dried tobacco leaves

Tobacco leaves drying in Virginia.

Chergui opens on me slightly differently than on others. There is an initial citric and lemon note that I haven’t read of others experiencing. The citrus accompanies a strong rose note along with smoky tobacco leaves over a leather base. The combination of notes reminds me a tiny bit of my much-loved vintage Montana by Claude Montana (now renamed Montana Parfum de Peau) as well as the opening of some chypre fragrances — so much so that, for a minute or two, I wonder if perhaps I received a different sample as part of my Lutens set. But, no, this is definitely Chergui. The tobacco leaves are unmistakable. This is not the tobacco of a cigarette or dirty ashtray, nor is it the fruity tobacco of a pipe. These leaves recall images I’ve seen of tobacco drying under the hot sun of the American South. They have a rich amberous, almost nutty element to them with smoke that goes far beyond the sort in mere incense; it verges into the more extreme, black, tarry aspects of frankincense.

Source: etshoneysupliers.

Source: etshoneysupliers.

At the same time, the opening exudes honey. It is not as strong on me, at this time, as it seems to be on others. In fact, I seem to have the reverse experience of a number of commentators who start out with honey, hay and tobacco, only to find a heart of spicy rose later on. On me, the pyramid triangle is reversed. The rose is upfront and on top, with smoke and woody notes following on its heels.

There is also a note of camphor which intertwines itself with the smoke. It’s almost a medicinal note which leads me to wonder if camphor is Christopher Sheldrake’s favorite ingredient for perfumes. The slightly chilled, cold, cool note it provides is interesting, particularly when combined with the rose notes, because it creates a strong similarity to the many rose oud fragrances currently on the market. In fact, I can definitely smell a woody, medicinal, floral oud note in Chergui, though no oud or agarwood is listed. (Then again, I continuously read that Serge Lutens doesn’t list all the ingredients in his perfumes, so who knows.) The note is subtle and not very strong, but it dances around the rose and honey opening, adding dryness and wood to the perfume’s richness.

The camphorous smoke accords strongly call to mind campfires, except you’re not in a forest as you are with oud perfumes. Here, the campfire is in a field of roses sandwiched between a Turkish tobacco bazaar and an ancient Greek Orthodox churchGreek Orthodox Censer that is billowing out incense and frankincense. Unlike so many others, I don’t get impressions of Morocco or the desert from Chergui. I definitely did from Andy Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain, but not from this. On me, it was not spiced enough for Morocco. Instead, for some strange reason, I get persistent images of Istanbul. But all that is mere quibbling because, frankly, I cannot stop sniffing my arm!

As time passes in the opening hour, the leather starts to bloom, alongside subtle hints of sandalwood. This is not the cold, black leather of scents like Robert Piguet’s Bandit or Montale’s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie; nor is it the pale suede of Chanel’s Cuir de Russie or Etat Libre d’Orange’s Tom of Finland. This is warm, soft leather that is caramel, nutty and smooth. The accompanying sandalwood is faint, but never synthetic. And the whole thing is cocooned in a backdrop of rich honey. There is great sweetness, but it is never cloying or like the sugar bomb perfumes that are currently saturating the commercial market. This is not diabetes in a bottle; there are no cupcake or dessert similarities here.

Thirty minutes in, the camphorous notes have receded a little, as have the woody oud-like notes. The sandalwood increases its presence, as does the element of sweet hay from what is said to be a healthy dollop of coumarin. (See the Glossary for further details on coumarin and its notes.) To be honest, I really don’t get a hell of a lot of sweet hay at this point but, then again, my perfume triangle seems to be reversed. The strong coumarin accord comes later, about four hours into the fragrance, and its straw-like sweetness is a perfect counterbalance to the different, richer kind of sweetness coming from the honey.

The smoke, sandalwood and florals call to mind several different perfumes. Again, L’Air du Desert Marocain is not one of them. There is, however, a surprising and peculiar impression of YSL‘s Opium made light — a comparison also noted by the blog, That Smell. To some extent, that’s not surprising as Opium is the ultimate benchmark for all spicy orientals with incense and frankincense. But Chergui is much lighter and sweeter than (vintage) Opium with its powerful eugenol cloves, its opening blast of citrus and orange, and its muscular sandalwood, opoponax and balsams. I haven’t tried (yet) Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille which some say is similar to Chergui, but what I think it sometimes resembles is Molinard‘s Habanitaamazing Habanita, one of the original sweet tobacco and leather fragrances which dates back to 1921. Chergui lacks its very strong citric opening and its constant, very powdered vanilla character, but there are similarities especially with the rose, leather and sweet tobacco accords of the opening hours. Chergui is more honeyed tobacco leaves, while Habanita is more powdered tobacco paper, but there are similarities.

As time passes, Chergui continues to develop. At the two hour note, the tobacco has become softer, the incense milder, the sandalwood smoother and the whole thing takes on a creamy aura. I have a definite impression of creamy tea due to a milky note that is lovely and cozy. And the honey accord is getting stronger now that the powerful incense and wood accords have retreated. The leather is very faint, if it’s there at all. Interestingly, I’ve read a surprisingly large number of comments that say the leather seems stronger on men than on women, with these reports coming from women whose husbands or boyfriends also wear Chergui.

Source: Visual Photos

Source: Visual Photos

After 4.5 hours, Chergui is all honey with some soft tobacco and loads of sweet, dry coumarin. It really smells like bales of hay in a barn, only coated with honey! Those notes constitute the essence of the dry-down phase for me and they remained for several more hours to come.

In terms of sillage and longevity, Chergui became close to the skin after about four hours, but its longevity is impressive. I could smell faint, minute traces of it on my skin after 8 hours and, again, my body consumes perfume voraciously. On others, I’ve read it lasts forever and ever. Also, as a side note, I’ve read a lot of people say that this is a perfume that can actually improve in the heat and in summer, so it should not be considered solely as a winter perfume.

Chergui has many admirers, but some detractors as well. On Basenotes, it has 102 positive reviews, 13 negative ones and 28 neutrals. The 13 negative comments focus on how it is either cloyingly sweet or uninteresting. On Fragrantica, the negative reviews are greater in number with the primary complaints being: 1) it smells too powdery; 2) it’s too sweet or too “old man”-ish; and 3) it opens like “bug spray.” I don’t smell any powder in Chergui and, given how I’m not a huge fan of the note, I would mention it if I did. I can see, however, why some may get the impression of “bug spray.” I think it’s the camphorous element in the opening. According to Luca Turin, in the old days, camphor notes (like that in patchouli) were used as bug repellent. The more common criticism of Chergui — that of its sweetness — is something I don’t personally agree with given the extent of the very dry smoke, incense and coumarin, but I can see how this would be far too much for someone who isn’t into honey perfumes or who generally prefers light, floral, or less heady scents. This is definitely not the scent for them!

Among the many rave reviews for Chergui, a few stood out to me. One was the absolutely beautiful review by Victoria from Bois de Jasmin who wrote:

it is an Arabian Nights vignette in a liquid form.

The candied quality melts in the smoke whispers that fill the arrangement, like incense smoke seeping through the carved screens. The floral accord folded into the smoky layers of Chergui lightens density and sweetness, lending a voluptuous silky quality. The fine cured Virginia tobacco notes overlaid on the smoky leathery base give the composition a slightly masculine character, counterbalancing the sweet notes….

If Chergui is an oasis, it encompasses not only the romantic elements of such a vision—dark black tea served with sugar cubes on the side, narghileh smoked inside leather tents, heavy silks carried by the caravans. The camels resting in the shade are suggested by the animalic sweetness underpinning the honeyed base. Like in an intricate Persian miniature, Chergui is a tale that spills from one story into another.

It maintains the suspense despite the fact that the development of the composition from the top accord to the bottom is not particularly dramatic. Instead, the hints of what is to come—whiff of tobacco, curl of rose petal, creaminess of sandalwood—are suggested in the preceding stages, resulting in the harmony of the narrative. At the same time, the intrinsic romanticism of Chergui fits with the philosophy of Serge Lutens’s work. Like Delacroix, a French painter, was fascinated with the Moroccan scenes, Serge Lutens’s fragrances allow a glimpse into another world through the eyes of an outsider.

I think that may be one of the most beautiful reviews I’ve read for any fragrance! But an equally noteworthy one — albeit less romantic and much more amusing — came from a commentator on MakeupAlley. There, “ThreeJane” gave a wonderful, very down-to-earth review of how Chergui can make one average, harried, stressed-out woman feel:

Chergui is a WOMAN’S scent. You’d better be a mature woman…all curves, breasts, buttocks, and satiny toffee-colored skin to wear this. You can pin a man from across the room with your smoky eyes, beckon him with a narcotic-laced toss of your hair, bend his will to your whim, and break his heart with an indifferent glance. Your clothes meld to your curves, and men can’t say why you are so intoxicating… […]. Women want to be you, men want to possess you.

That’s how this scent makes me feel, anyway. Not like a harried housewife with four homechooled kids and a messy (not dirty! Just cluttered!) house that has dogs bouncing off the walls and a perennial dish or three in the sink. Some days I just drag around in yoga pants and a t-shirt (it’s really a pajama tee from Target, don’t tell) with my hair haphazardly twisted up in a bun. I’m 41, with some wrinkles and sagging skin, standard mom issue.

But when I wear Chergui, I magically transform into Catherine Zeta-Jones in “The Legend of Zorro”, Angelina Jolie in “Original Sin”. Lush, luscious, sensual, unforgettable. After you get past the first almost acrid, medicinal blast of herby incense (about 10 minutes)…almost eyewatering, really…the scent melds into a spicy, honeyed, slightly sugary amber that’s saved from cloying-ness by a fresh bite of tobacco, iris, and I guess it’s hay. There’s supposed to be rose notes in this, which unfortunately, rose never shows up on me. But it’s not needed or missed.

Hours, and I mean HOURS, later, the drydown maintains the amber and slowly includes a woody edge…I guess that’s the sandalwood. I can see the guy from “The Most Interesting Man in the World” beer commercials wearing this. But it’s not manly, oh no. If my florid, overblown prose didn’t spell it out above, it’s verrrry feminine (all dependent on chemistry…always).

[…] There aren’t a lot of things that can elevate me from my rather humdrum hausfrau existence, so when I find something that lifts me up, I’ll take it and exploit it every chance I get. Just lovely.

The two reviews could not be more different and, yet, I think they both manage to capture the gist of Chergui. Try it for yourself, and see where the red desert wind takes you….

Details:
Cost & Availability: Chergui is currently on sale as the “Deal of the Week” at Beauty Encounter where the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle is priced at $85.65 and free shipping is available. I don’t know how long that special will last. At all other times, you can find Chergui on the Serge Lutens Chergui Bell Jarwebsite. In the famous bell-jar shape, it costs $280 for 2.5 fl oz/75 ml. However, in the smaller size and regular bottle, it costs $120 for 1.7 fl oz/50 ml. Serge Lutens is sometimes available at fine retailers like Barney’s, but I don’t see Chergui listed on a number of department store sites. Chergui is also available on Penny Lane and Lucky Scent for $140 for the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle — which is $20 more than it costs on the Lutens website. In the UK, you can find Chergui at Harrods where it costs £69.00 for a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle. You can also find it at Les Senteurs (or perhaps just at their Elizabeth Street shop) where that same bottle costs £79.00. The site sells samples of Chergui for £3.50. In Australia, I found it on the Grays website where the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle retails for AUD $124.50. For other countries, you can use the Store Locator on the Lutens website. Sample vials to test it out can be bought at Surrender to Chance (but not Lucky Scent) starting at $3.99. Surrender to Chance also has a special Lutens sample pack of 3 non-export perfumes which includes Chergui (and Borneo 1834) and which starts at $11.50 for the smallest sized vials. Surrender to Chance has the best shipping rates, in my opinion: $2.95 for orders of any size within the U.S., and $5.95 for all international orders under $75 (otherwise, it’s just a tiny bit more).

Perfume Review- Serge Lutens Borneo 1834

Source: Fragrantica

Borneo 1834.
Source: Fragrantica

Serge Lutens wants to take you on journey to the heart of 19th century Borneo, an island on the equator, north of Java, and which now consists of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. He wants to take you on the Dutch trading ships with their bales of raw silks and cocoa as they traversed the exotic seas on their way to the shops of Europe. And he does it via Borneo 1834, a perfume created with Lutens’ usual cohort in olfactory adventures, the famous nose Christopher Sheldrake. It was released in 2005 and, until 2010, was exclusive to Lutens’ Paris salon as part of the “non-export” line. At the moment, however, it is available worldwide via the Lutens website.

Fragrantica classifies Borneo 1834 as an “oriental woody” and lists its notes as:

patchouli, white flowers, cardamom, galbanum, french labdanum and cacao.

Bois de Jasmin, however, also adds in camphor and cannabis resin. The latter led me to some Google searches, with extremely amusing results, on what constitutes the exact smell of cannabis when in resin form. (My conclusion is that some people lead very… interesting… lives.) Borneo Traders

On his website. Lutens explains his choice of name and the theory behind the scent:

Why did I pick 1834? That was the year Parisians discovered patchouli. In those days, it came wrapped in silk.

Imagine a woman of that time wearing a patchouli fragrance: she awaits her carriage, draped in her sable stole.

Children of BorneoThe famous perfume expert and critic, Luca Turin, provides even more explanation in his book, Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. In his four-star review of the fragrance, he says:

Patchouli Leaves

Patchouli Leaves

Apparently Lutens has determined that the first olfactory point of contact between Europe and the Far East took place there and then, in the form of the patchouli leaves used to wrap bales of silk. The patchouli was intended to keep moths away from the precious fabric (insects hate camphoraceous smells), but when the silk reached Western shores, elegant ladies wanted more of the smell. In other words, patchouli’s career in perfumery is a rise from bug repellent to luxury goods, a trajectory meteorically traced in the opposite direction by many contemporary fragrances. As often happens with Lutens-Sheldrake creations, the first sniff comes as a complete shock: the overwhelming impression is one of dark brown powder. Seconds later one realizes that this nameless dust is made of two components, patchouli and chocolate, skillfully juxtaposed (how?) so that neither the earthiness of patchouli nor the familiarity of chocolate prevails. Borneo 1834 is like Angel in reverse: instead of jumping out at you, it sucks you into its shadowy space. All the materials used are firmly rooted in the “orientalist” (aka hippie) style, yet the size, grace, and complexity of the overall structure make it the direct descendant of orientals proper like Emeraude and Shalimar.  [Emphasis added for the names.]

Borneo Bell Jar

Borneo 1834 in one of Lutens’ famous bell-jar bottles.

The opening blast of Borneo 1834 on my skin is glorious. I absolutely love it. There is wonderfully resinous, boozy, sweet patchouli with bitter chocolate. The latter is more like the small, dark, cocoa nibs that you find in baking. There is a faint hint of camphor, but it’s light and plays off well with the smokiness of the patchouli and labdanum. It’s not the sort of smoke that you find in incense but, rather, a sweeter, much nuttier smoke accord. It makes me think of siam sesin, only amplified and combined with patchouli and cocoa. (You can read more about siam resin, along with labdanum, galbanum and some of the other notes in Borneo 1834 in my Glossary.) The patchouli has a great earthiness, almost like rich, black earth — moist, loamy and heavy. There is a faint hint of a musky, animalic note, too, almost like the sort of body funk that you would get from civet.

I don’t smell cardamom or the white flowers to any noteworthy extent. There is a floral note there, faintly peeking its head over the mighty patchouli, but I don’t think “white flowers” would really come to mind. If there is a floral note, I’d think of a pale rose more than white flowers, but it doesn’t really matter as the note is so faint as to be barely noticeable.

As for the notes given by Bois de Jasmin, I have never smelled a fresh, growing cannabis plant, let alone cannabis resin, so I set off to do some research. Google informs me that the former smells like slightly herbal, sweet, cut grass, while the latter can supposedly smell of anything from skunks to motor oil. I don’t smell fresh, sweet grass in Borneo 1834, and definitely nothing even remotely resembling skunks. I suppose one could say that there is a faint scent of car oil, but I think that  the tarry, black note is more typical of a dirty, black patchouli or labdanum. Overall, the scent is dry in its sweetness, not cloying or synthetically sharp.

Cocoa Nibs. Source: A Man of Chocolate.

Cocoa Nibs. Source: A Man of Chocolate.

Thirty minutes in, the dark cocoa is on equal footing with the patchouli, and the light camphor note has vanished. There are times when the final result almost smells a bit like mocha coffee. It is too rich a smell to be considered “cozy,” especially as that is a word which I associate with softer scents that wrap themselves around you like cashmere or that make you want to snuggle under a blanket. Borneo 1834 is too dark for that. It is also too dry to be an edible gourmand scent, but it has some mystery and layers, especially in its opening. I truly adore those opening notes of patchouli which make me think, “this is what patchouli should smell like more often!”

I’m much less thrilled with the middle stages and the dry-down. Two hours in, the musk and animalic notes start to become much more pronounced. It is at this stage that the sillage lessens a little, though it is still somewhat noticeable. (Three hours in, the perfume becomes close to the skin, though there is still great longevity.) The animalic notes become more and more prominent with every hour, and the final dry-down stage is almost entirely earthy, slightly intimate body funk.

It’s hard to explain the scent here. It’s not intimate like someone’s private parts, it’s also not exactly musky, and it’s most definitely not like ripe, extreme, unwashed body odor. It’s sort of a mild variation of the two, a “skank” note like that from a very warm, faintly sweaty, slightly sweet, almost musky body after a long session at the gym. Perhaps, musk and sweet “dried sweat” may encapsulate some of it, but only a portion of it. Either way, there is a linearity and earthy singularity in the middle and final stages which is fine, if you like animalic notes. I don’t. Which is why I much preferred that absolutely lovely opening with its boozy notes evocative of siam resin, its luscious patchouli and its dry cocoa.

That dark, black, and faintly bitter, cocoa accord is just one of the things that separates Borneo 1834 from Christopher Sheldrake’s other patchouli creation: Coromandel (for Chanel‘s Les Exclusif line). Created with Jacques Polge, both perfumes share chocolate and patchouli notes, which is probably why they are so frequently discussed in the same breath. To me, however, Coromandel is an extremely different scent. In fact, I’d consider them to be like night and day. I found Coromandel to be all burning smoke, white cocoa and powdery vanilla, resembling a chai latte at times. The strong incense and frankincense notes dominated the sweet patchouli; it was a frankincense and incense perfume first and foremost. At its heart though, Coromandel is a cozy scent with powdered vanilla and tonka; it is light and somewhat multi-faceted. Borneo 1834, in contrast, is a dark powerhouse of patchouli, bitter cocoa dust and earthiness, and it’s not extremely complex. In fact, I’d say that it only has two stages, each of which is quite direct: patchouli chocolate with some camphor, resin and smoke; and earthy, animalic notes.

Freddie from Smelly Thoughts, a great perfume blog, loved the perfume throughout all its stages and didn’t seem to note any animalic body funk. His review is useful, especially as it compares Borneo 1834 to Thierry Mugler‘s infamous Angel:

So patchouli + chocolate = Angel? Not quite. The patchouli here is lavishly sleek, whilst being familiar in its dank, deep scent – it remains tame and completely in control. The sweetness in Borneo, unlike the Mugler, is also in complete control, richer – more exotic, with a delicate camphor laying over the top – adding an almost medicinal astringency to the patchouli and cocoa. The camphor is far from the intensity of Tuberuese Criminelle (for example), and instead has the sheer, sharp aspect that some great ouds have. It adds an age and a chilling subtlety to the foggy atmosphere.

I get a very subtle tobacco, as well as a liquorice note – in the same, but more toned down, style of Parfumerie Generale’s Aomassai. All intermingled with the cocoa and bitter patchouli, Borneo 1834 is dark and perplexing whilst being light and delicate on the skin.
The fragrance remains relatively linear, with a wonderful resinous base acting like a dark, sticky veil. The resins give off that breathy/slightly sweaty feel that they sometimes do (I normally get this with myrrh), I’d almost have thought there was the tiniest bit of cumin in here, but the fragrance isn’t spicy at all.

I think Freddie’s reference to cumin indicates that he may have smelled some animalic funk too, but obviously, it was in no way as extreme on him as it was on me during those final hours. All in all, Borneo 1834 lasted about 9 hours on me, with the animalic funk being a large part of the last (low sillage) 6.5 hours (and all of the final 3 hours). It is the main reason why I didn’t love the fragrance, though it’s an absolutely gorgeous scent in its opening notes.

Borneo 1934 is a scent that is definitely well-suited to winter and, if you love patchouli, well worth a sample sniff. If you try it, let me know what you think. I’m particularly curious to know if you have a similar experience as I did during the final hours.

Details:
Cost & Availability: You can find Borneo 1834 on the Serge Lutens website. In the famous bell-jar shape, it costs $290 for 2.5 fl oz/75 ml. However, in the smaller size and Borneo regular bottleregular bottle, it costs $140 for 1.7 fl oz/50 ml. In general, Serge Lutens is usually available at fine retailers like Barney’s, Lucky Scent and a few other online sites. Lucky Scent carries the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle for $140 but, oddly enough, I’ve seen it sold on Amazon for $125 via Beauty Encounter. You can only do a search online to see if it is available at a discount from discount perfume retailers. Sample vials to test it out can be bought at Surrender to Chance (but not Lucky Scent) starting at $3.99. Surrender to Chance also has a special Lutens sample pack of 3 non-export perfumes which includes Borneo 1834 and which starts at $11.50 for the smallest sized vials.

Perfume Review – Tom Ford Private Blend Noir de Noir: Henry VIII’s Tudor Rose

The Tudor Rose, emblem of the royal house of King Henry VII, King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.

The Tudor Rose, emblem of the royal house of King Henry VII, King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.

If the royal medieval dynasty, the Tudors, had a perfume to go along with their rose emblem, I suspect it would probably have been something like Tom Ford‘s Private Blend Noir de Noir For Women and Men. It is a scent that is as rich, baroque, lavish, and earthy as the bawdy, gourmand Henry VIII himself. Noir de Noir is not the delicate flower of Diana, Princess of Wales, whom Elton John called England’s Rose. No, this is Henry VIII’s prime rib to Diana’s scones and clotted cream. It’s rose turned rich and decadent, spiced and meaty, with an earthiness that hints at faintly musky intimacy. It is a scent that I think rose lovers will absolutely adore.

Fragrantica categorizes Noir de Noir as a “chypre” eau de parfum. You can read more about chypres on my Glossary but, in the most basic nutshell, a chypre perfume has a foundation consisting of oakmoss, or oakmoss in conjunction with certain other notes (like patchouli). On his website, Tom FordTF Noir de Noir describes Noir de Noir as follows:

A dark Chypre Oriental, this scent opens with an earthy mantle of richly woven Saffron, Black Rose and Black Truffle, with hints of floralcy. Underneath, Vanilla, Patchouli, Oud Wood and Tree Moss soften the intensity, making the scent a sensual experience.

Noir de Noir opens with the darkest, blackest, most luxuriously rich rose possible. I should confess that I am not someone who is crazy about rose scents (I overdosed on YSL’s Paris when I was 13), but I was very impressed with the opening of this one. This is much more my kind of rose! It made me think of dark, damask Persian or Bulgarian roses with their much sweeter,

A damask rose.

A damask rose.

headier scent than some of their pale European cousins. It’s a very narcotically ripe sort of rose note and so plush, it’s almost boozy. I don’t get the red wine notes that many refer to, but that booziness is such that it actually verges into a fruity realm. To be specific, I have a very strong and distinct impression of Welch’s grape juice or grape jelly. Despite that, Noir de Noir evokes a dark, medieval world of baroque velvet, sumptuous fabrics, rich wood-paneled rooms hung with elaborate hunting tapestries, and tyrannical, grumpy Henry VIII in bejeweled robes striding to a long dining room table covered with ornate silver and mounds of red-blooded, meaty dishes. This is most definitely England’s rose of a different century than Elton John’s pale, blonde Diana!

The sweetness of the rich, damask rose is accompanied by what seems to be a faint flicker of oud but it is so light, I think I may have imagined it. It is definitely not the medicinal oud I’ve encountered in Montale or By Kilian‘s agarwood fragrances, nor the oud of YSL’s reformulated M7. In fact, I tried on Noir de Noir twice to be sure, and, the second time, I was convinced that there was absolutely no oud at all. Zero. Others, such as Perfume-Smellin Things, have reported the same, but Undina’s Looking Glass reported quite a bit of oud when she gave it a test run.

Oakmoss or tree moss.

Oakmoss or tree moss.

Equally undetectable to me: oakmoss. At no time did I ever smell the pungent, almost mineralised dusty grey-green bitterness of oakmoss and, again, I don’t seem to be the only one. Perfume Posse also found no oud or oakmoss in Noir de Noir. Given the IFRA regulations on oakmoss, Tom Ford would have had to use either synthetic oakmoss or have the real thing be in such minute proportions as to be basically nonexistent. Judging by the perfume, I would guess that he went with the latter route because this is as much a “chypre” on my skin as Welch’s grape jelly is….

Instead, there is a definite note of sweet saffron with its faintly woody hues and a strong note of black truffle. I’ve cooked with and eaten real black truffles, and its earthiness is profoundly fresh-black-trufflesapparent here. The richness of the black truffle adds heft and meatiness to the rose. It also adds an earthiness that creates a faintly bawdy, sensuous note of body funk to the scent. It is not always apparent and, by the end, it flitters in and out like a ghost. Sometimes, especially in the opening hour, it is stronger and I sniff my arm with a faint trace of concern; I smell a wee bit ripe. At other times, it’s delightfully subtle and just a faint whisper that adds a note of sensuality to the perfume.

The earthiness of the black truffle explains why Noir de Noir is consistently described as a “high-class” or elevated version of Tom Ford’s Black Orchid fragrance, another one of his perfumes which has black truffle at its heart. In fact, there may be more than just an unintentional similarity between the two scents. My best friend, who so kindly sent me my sample of Noir de Noir, was informed by a Tom Ford sales lady that Noir de Noir was apparently the scent that was initially supposed to be Black Orchid. I’m not wholly clear on her meaning, and neither was my best friend, but it seems that Tom Ford may have originally intended for Noir de Noir to be the scent called Black Orchid. The latter came out one year before in 2006, while Noir de Noir came out in 2007, so who knows the accuracy of that story. Still, it is indisputable that the two scents share a similar “Noir” or “Black” theme of florals mixed with earthiness and black truffle.

I haven’t tried Black Orchid but, judging by Black Orchid Voile de Fleur and several other Tom Ford scents that I have tested, Noir de Noir smells far more expensive and not very synthetic. It lacks that almost shrill screeeeeeeeeeeeeeech of the opening, that clanging, loud, almost nose-burning olfactory assault that can be quite brutal at times. I attribute the latter to a very synthetic quality in some Tom Ford’s fragrances: Neroli Portofino comes immediately (and painfully) to mind, followed to a lesser extent by Black Orchid Voile de FleurWhite Patchouli and Violet Blonde.

No, Noir de Noir is a much better perfume than any of those other scents. Luca Turin seems rather enamoured of it, too, giving it a four-star rating in his book, Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. He also called it a “rose-chocolate,” as do legions of others. I assume Turkish delightthe combination of black truffle and patchouli gives rise to that impression amongst so many, but I’m afraid I can’t smell any chocolate. What I can smell, however, and what I am convinced Noir de Noir encapsulates more than anything else is Turkish Delight. If you’ve ever had a box, or if you’ve ever read C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe from the Narnia series, you will know what I’m talking about immediately. Turkish Delight is a sweet dessert that is often made from rose water and covered with white confectioner’s powders. It smells strongly ofTurkish Delight2 candied violets and that note of candied, sometimes powdered and vanilla-y, violets is an enormous part of Noir de Noir.

As time passes, Noir de Noir becomes more and more like powdered rose-vanilla with a hint of candied violets. At no time did I ever smell rich chocolate, though I do get that faint earthy note of body funk from the black truffle from time to time. Commentators on MakeupAlley seem to share my rose-vanilla impressions for the most part, and one even noted the Turkish Delight comparison, too! In contrast, Fragrantica commentators seem to fall predominantly into the chocolate camp.

One area where I depart from the majority in both camps is sillage and longevity. Even for my skin, Noir de Noir is of very short duration. In fact, it may be the shortest-lasting Tom Ford I have encountered. It became close to the skin about 1.5 to 2 hours in, and lasted for a grand total of 4 hours. There have been a few comments on Fragrantica and elsewhere about the 2 hour mark, so it may not just be me but we can be counted on one hand (or maybe just under two). Contrary to us few oddballs, the vast majority of people report that Noir de Noir lasts eons and eons on them, with some giving 12 hours or more!

If Noir de Noir lasted anywhere close to that amount of time on me, I might be a little more enthused about it. As it is, the very boring dry-down of powdered vanilla rose and violets with ghostly hints of earthy bodily funk is really not fascinating enough for the very high price of the perfume. The smallest bottle — the standard 1.7 oz/50 ml size — costs $205. That’s a bit steep to smell like Turkish Delight, no matter how lovely (and it really was lovely!) the opening notes of boozy, heady rose with saffron. The steepness might be a little more tolerable if the Turkish Delight er… Noir de Noir actually lasted on me but, again, it didn’t.

It’s probably at this point that I should bring up the other perfume to which Noir de Noir is repeatedly compared and you’ll probably be very surprised by what it is: the celebrity scent, Queen, by Queen Latifah. According to Fragrantica commentators on both the Tom Ford entry and the Queen one, it is an almost exact dupe for Noir de Noir! I haven’t smelled it, so I can’t comment, but the reportedly striking similarity may be of interest to you given the price differential. A 3.4 oz bottle of Queen eau de parfum retails for $59 and is currently being sold on the Walgreens website for $28.19 and on eBay for $15.16! In contrast, that same sized bottle of Noir de Noir retails for $280. eBay sellers are also offering the smaller 1.7 oz size of Queen for only $8, whereas the analagous 1.7 oz bottle of Noir de Noir retails for $205.

If the comparisons are true — and at least 44 people voted that they were — then that is quite a spectacular price difference! To be honest, I’m rather tempted now to buy the Queen just to see if they’re right! I’m sure there will be a difference in quality, as even its critics admit that the Tom Ford Private Blend line is of high quality. Plus, according to the Scentrist blog, the reported perfume strength of the Private Blend line (26%) is higher than even the regular Tom Ford line (18%). But, despite that, I’m still tempted to try out the Queen Latifah perfume. Have I mentioned how much I love a bargain or how curious I am?!

All in all, I liked Noir de Noir, though I’m far from its ideal, targeted audience as I’m not usually a fan of rose scents. Still, I’m surprised by how much I liked its opening. As a whole, though, I would have liked the perfume better had its sillage, longevity, dry-down and cost been different. But its richness and earthiness make it something that I think would appeal to many people, men and women alike.

To be totally clear, this is definitely a scent that a man can wear. And, judging by the comments on Fragrantica, a lot of men really love it. Amusingly enough, two of my closest friends — one of each gender — had very opposite reactions to Noir de Noir. My male friend (someone who wears such masculine scents as YSL’s M7) adores it and succumbed to a full bottle after just a few sniffs of the sample. In contrast, my female friend found it a touch too masculine (and she loves Tom Ford’s Oud wood)! I think the dispositive factor will be how you feel about rose. My female friend is, like me, not a huge fan. If you are — and if you like heady rose scents in particular — then I absolutely recommend that you try giving this sniff. Beyond a shadow of a doubt.

But the Henry VIII lifestyle is not included….

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Noir de Noir is available on the Tom Ford website where it sells for: $205 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, $280 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle or $495 for a 200 ml/8.45 oz bottle. In the US, you can also find it at fine retailers such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and others. In the UK, you can find it at Harrods where it sells for £135.00 or £195.00, depending on size. Elsewhere, Tom Ford fragrances are carried in numerous different countries; hopefully, you can find one near you using the store locator on the Tom Ford website.
Samples: If you like rose scents and are intrigued, but are also sane enough not to want to spend such a large amount without testing it out first, I suggest ordering a sample. You can find them starting at $3 on Surrender to Chance, or on other decant/sample sites like The Perfumed Court. I think Surrender to Chance has the best shipping: $2.95 for any order, no matter the size, within the U.S., and $5.95 for most orders going overseas. (It’s a wee bit higher if your order is over $75.)

Perfume Releases: Endless Flankers, More Ouds & Some New Fragrances

Every now and then, I think it’s fun to post about some of the new perfume releases that are either already out on the market or that soon will be. At the very least, you’ll see some pretty bottles. All posts are taken via Now Smell This (NST), Fragrantica or other, credited sites. (If I could figure out how to properly re-blog a non-WordPress article, I would but, alas, my technical knowledge does not go that far. I have tried to give credit via full quotes and source citation. Almost everything is a direct quote from the original site and/or the press releases that they are relying upon.)

ROBERT PIGUET:
Petit FracasAlready out on the market is a new flanker version of Fracas, Petit Fracas, for those who are supposedly “not ready” for the power of full-grown Fracas. Joe Garces, CEO of Robert Piguet Parfums, spoke to Basenotes about it in an interview that you can read here. To me, it basically seems like a fruity, sweet version of Fracas that is designed to appeal to the younger demographic. I am not particularly thrilled about the fact that the notes include cocoa, which seems like a bit of a travesty for something labelled, even partially, as “Fracas.” From the article:

Garces talks about Petit Fracas in the video below. The scent is for women who are not yet ‘ready’ for Fracas, and as well as Fracas’s signature tuberose contains notes of bergamot, mandarin, pear, jasmine, gardenia, cocoa, musk and sandalwood.

To see the video, you can go to the Basenotes article linked above. There are already reviews for it out on Fragrantica, where one person states that Petit Fracas was made because the CEO’s daughter did not like Fracas. I will abstain from comment and try not to thrust my fist through the monitor. No, on second thought, I will not abstain. It’s all well and good for someone not to like Fracas. It’s totally understandable, in fact. But if you’re not a fan, then don’t make your new release something under the Fracas name, especially if its notes seem extremely different and only one-tenth the complexity of Fracas. In other words, don’t try to capitalise on the legendary Fracas name to launch something totally different. You have about 12 other scents. Make this one #13. And tell your daughter that Fracas is not meant to be a fruit cocktail with cocoa!

GAULTIER:
In February, Jean-Paul Gaultier will releases a flanker for his 1995′s Le Mâle called Le Beau Male.
Jean Paul Gaultier Le Beau Male

It is developed by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, who also developed the original Le Mâle fragrance. Notes include mint, lavender, vanilla, sandalwood and musk.

Source: NST.

LUTENS:

Also in February, NST states there will be a new Serge Lutens called La Fille de Berlin:

Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin

Serge Lutens will launch La Fille de Berlin, a new fragrance in the “Selective Distribution” series (formerly known as the export range), in February.

La Fille de Berlin is a rose-based floriental fragrance, and is being launched in conjunction with his upcoming book of photography, Berlin à Paris.

Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin will be available in 50 ml Eau de Parfum.

VERSACE:
Versace jumps on the increasingly mainstream, extremely popular oud bandwagon with Versace Pour Homme Oud Noir

Versace Pour Homme Oud Noir

Versace has launched Versace Pour Homme Oud Noir, a new fragrance for men geared towards the Middle East market. Versace Pour Homme Oud Noir is a flanker to 2008′s Versace Pour Homme.

The seduction of a sunset on a desert; a sensual heady aroma. A fragrance for men designed for lovers of oriental fragrances, for a man with a strong personality. An intense and regal composition; spicy and with a deep scent of leather.

Versace Pour Homme Oud Noir is available in 100 ml Eau de Parfum.

DIOR:

January sees the launch of yet another Dior Poison flanker called Hypnotic Poison Eau Secrète. NST states:

Christian Dior Hypnotic Poison Eau Secrète Christian Dior will launch Hypnotic Poison Eau Secrète, a new flanker to 1998′s Hypnotic Poison, which was a flanker to 1985′s Poison.

The notes include citrus, bergamot, jasmine, neroli and vanilla.

Christian Dior Hypnotic Poison Eau Secrète will be available in 50 and 100 ml Eau de Toilette.

GUCCI:
In February, Gucci will release flankers to its Guilty line of fragrances. NST states:

Gucci Guilty Black

Gucci will launch Gucci Guilty Black, new flankers to 2010′s Gucci Guilty and 2011′s Gucci Guilty Pour Homme.

Gucci Guilty Black (above right) ~ an ‘intense and elegant’ oriental floral, with red fruits, pink pepper, raspberry, violet, amber and patchouli. In 30, 50 and 75 ml Eau de Toilette.

Gucci Guilty Black Pour Homme (above left) ~ ‘intense and energetic’ woody aromatic fougere, with coriander, lavender, orange blossom, neroli, patchouli and leather. In 30, 50 and 90 ml Eau de Toilette.

ARTEMISIA:
Artemisia Natural Perfume has launched Saveur de l’Abricot. NST describes it as a new fruity floral fragrance and quotes the press release:

Artemisia Natural Perfume Saveur de l'AbricotPicture plucking a ripe apricot from the tree and taking a bite. Feel the velvety, golden skin on your lips. Taste the juicy tang of the flesh on your tongue. Multiple layers of ambrosial sweetness explode with earthy voluptuousness and piquant twist.

Saveur de l’Abricot means the flavor of apricot. Most of what we perceive as flavor is actually scent. With the fruity-floral richness of Chinese osmanthus and real apricot essence, Saveur de l’Abricot is an impressionistic fragrance capturing the sensuality of eating an apricot.

Artemisia Natural Perfume Saveur de l’Abricot is available in 7 gr Solid Perfume and 17 ml Eau de Parfum. Samples are also available. (via artemisiaperfume).

NST also lets us know that the brand has a sale until February 28, 2013: “everything 25% off through 2/28, no coupon code needed.”

HUGO BOSS:

I don’t really have words for this as it seems like an extraordinarily odd combination of notes, so I will let NST take it on:

Hugo Boss Hugo Red

Hugo Boss will launch Hugo Red, a new fragrance for men, in January. Hugo Red will be fronted by actor Jared Leto.

Hugo Red was inspired by “the dual nature of metal” and features a cold metal accord with grapefruit, rhubarb, and metallic notes; and a hot metal accord with cedar and amber.

Hugo Boss Hugo Red will be available in 50, 75 and 150 ml Eau de Toilette and in matching grooming products.

OSCAR DE LA RENTA:
On the light, flowery front, Oscar de la Renta has launched Something Blue, a new bridal-inspired fragrance. NST provides the details:

Oscar de la Renta Something Blue

Introducing Something Blue, a fragrance to cherish forever. Inspired by life’s most magical moments, this romantic fragrance opens with a sparkling burst of mandarin and linden blossom and warms to an irresistibly sultry finish with notes of bourbon vanilla and white musk. A removable ring engraved with the designer’s signature logo is a symbol of Mr. de la Renta’s abiding devotion to his beloved clientele.

Additional notes include stephanotis, lily of the valley and lychee. Oscar de la Renta Something Blue is available now at Saks Fifth Avenue, in 50 and 100 ml Eau de Parfum and matching candle.

DAVIDOFF:

Davidoff The GameNST has the press release for the new Davidoff scent which is called The Game and which will be launched some time in 2013.

NST states:

Davidoff will launch Davidoff The Game, a new woody aromatic fragrance for men:

Never underestimate the stakes.
Always play fair.
Master the rules and leave nothing to chance.
Because life is a game and the winner takes it all.

The Game was developed by perfumer Bernard Ellena; notes include gin fizz accord (juniper berry), iris, precious woods and blackwood.

Davidoff The Game will be available in 100 ml Eau de Toilette.

Davidoff also has another new scent and it’s already out on the market. It’s a flanker for Hot Water called Hot Water Night and it contains oud. Fragrantica has further details:

Men’s fragrance Hot Water was launched in 2009 and announced as a fiery fragrance woven from powerful red chords. Its composition highlights red basil, red peppers and hot resin, embraced by warm earthy tones of patchouli. The night version—a successor of the first—Hot Water Night, appeared in 2012 as a darker and tawnier version of the original fragrance.

Hot Water Night brings a very masculine and intense composition, which puts an emphasis on hot spices. The top notes of the new edition are intertwining black pepper and aromatic juniper berries. The heart blooms with rose absolute reinforced by the notes of cedar, which are gently laid on the base made from oriental oud and gray amber.

DAVIDOFF HOT WATER NIGHTjuniper berries, black pepper
rose absolut, cedar
gray amber, oud

Davidoff Hot Water Night is presented in a bottle of the same form as the Hot Water release, but this time painted black. The black body of the bottle is graced with contrasting red details, which certainly announces the vigorous and virile chords of the composition. The fragrance is available as 110 ml Eau de Toilette Intense.

CARTIER:
Cartier has a new flanker to its Eau de Cartier line and this one is all about roses.  Fragrantica has the details:

Cartier has launched a flanker to their best-selling Eau de Cartier from 2001, called Eau de Cartier Goutte de Rose. The new flanker follows Eau de Cartier Essence de Bois from 2011 and Eau de Cartier Essence d’Orange from 2010, as well as the various collector’s editions of the original Eau de Cartier through the years.

The new fragrance is taking the rosy shades of its name into the packaging which differentiates it from the violet-leaf focused original in the white box.

Created by in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent, Goutte de Rose is a bright and joyful “eau” infused with the delicate essences of freshly picked roses upon which dew is still attached, aiming to inject immediate freshness, femininity and the well-being of a bright morning.

50ml EUR €73.42 – 100ml EUR €98.71

LA MAISON DE LA VANILLE:

La Maison de la Vanille has three new perfumes, including one that is an oud fragrance. NST does not have a date for the US releases, but it seems that they are all out in Germany. NST has this information:

La Maison de la Vanille Intense Patchouli

La Maison de la Vanille has launched three new fragrances, Intense Patchouli, Ambre Secret and Royal Oud. Along with 2011′s Absolu de Vanille, they make up the Les Parfums d’Absolu collection.

Intense Patchouli (shown) ~ “A thoroughly surprising and extraordinary patchouly composition. Perky lemon aromas and Lavender blossom provide a brand new fragrance experience and a real element of surprise. The floating and ethereal lightness of citric notes and lavender let the strong patchouli note dance and almost fly.” Additional notes include white musk, sandalwood and vanilla.

Ambre Secret ~ “Ambergris at his best. Peppery spiciness and soft, warm shades of ambergris. Shining brightly at the start, always dark, smoky and becoming more sophisticated until it ends in pure seduction.” The notes include white musk, sandalwood, cedar, patchouli, Peru balsam, labdanum and vanilla.

Royal Oud ~ “Beguiling Oriental roses and feminine jasmine blossoms underline the precious nature of the perfume. A powerful and expressive Oriental accent leads us into the depths of the mystical and mysterious Orient where new sensory worlds are waiting to be explored. Authentic agarwood exudes supreme opulence and complexity.” Additional notes include patchouli, lignum vitae, sandalwood and white musk.

La Maison de la Vanille Intense Patchouli, Ambre Secret and Royal Oud are available now at First in Fragrance in Germany, in 100 ml Eau de Parfum.

Well, that’s it for this blog post. I tried to cover both niche and main-stream perfume lines, so hopefully, there will something you find intriguing in the list. There are numerous other releases out on the market from new flankers for Coach’s Poppy line, a limited edition version of Clinique’s Happy, a new light Eau flanker for Fan di Fendi, and more. If you’re interested, you can find more information on these (and the numerous other) releases at NST’s New Releases page or Fragrantica’s similar page for new fragrances. Just be prepared to be deluged by a thousand flankers.

By the way, for those of you who may be interested, the Lancome L’Autre Oud fragrance in that drop-dead gorgeous bottle which I posted about in my last New Releases entry is supposed to be out on the market now. However, I don’t see it listed on Lancome’s website and have no idea where on earth one could possibly find this. If you do, or if you get the chance to give it a test whiff, let me know. I think that is one of the most beautiful bottles I’ve seen in a while.