Perfume Review – Tilda Swinton, Like This by État Libre d’Orange

Tilda Swinton has dreamed of a perfume.

That is how Etat Libre d’Orange (“ELDO”) starts to describe the perfume that they made in homage to (and in collaboration with) the talented, eccentric, British actress.

Not a girly juice, oh no. A radical fragrance that soothes the fire under the milky skin. A warm perfume, cooled by ginger. If this perfume was a light, it would be an orange glow. That’s what it is. Moreover, if you remove a letter Tilda Swinton Redfrom the word ‘orange’, you have orage – ‘storm’ in French – and that suits her. On the surface, the elements are rousing. On the inside, the fire is tamed, it burns gently in the fireplace of her Scottish home. The fire purrs, the ginger is crystallized, the milk is warm. The room is a sanctuary. She said: I want a cozy perfume. And I hear the word ‘Cosi’ too. Comme ça. Like This. This perfume is her offering, inspired by a poem of Rumi, Like This. And in terms of this uncommon woman, I also hear: And like nothing else. It’s like this – punctuated with a bewitching smile.

Tilda Swinton Like ThisTilda Swinton, Like This (which is also, alternatively, called “Like This,” “Like This, Tilda Swinton,” or “Like This… Tilda Swinton“) is the actress’ interpretation of her favorite Rumi poem. As she explains, she doesn’t even normally like scents in a bottle — but she adores Rumi and, now, the “cozy” comfort of her eponymous fragrance:

I have never been a one for scents in bottles. The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote : If anyone wants to know what «spirit» is, or what «God’s fragrance» means, lean your head toward him or her. Keep your face there close. Like this. [...]

This is possibly my favourite poem of all time. It restores me like the smoke/rain/gingerbread/ greenhouse my scent-sense is fed by.

The simple feelings of “home” and nature were Ms. Swinton’s precise goal in creating the perfume — and I’m emphasizing that for two reasons: 1), because this perfume won’t be for everyone as it is quite… er… unusual; and 2) because the aromas of a kitchen are fundamental to the essence of Tilda Swinton Like This:

My favourite smells are the smells of home, the experience of the reliable recognisable after the exotic adventure: the regular – natural – turn of the seasons, simplicity and softness after the duck and dive of definition in the wide, wide world.

When Mathilde Bijaoui first asked me what my own favourite scent in a bottle might contain, I described a magic potion that I could carry with me wherever I went that would hold for me the fragrance – the spirit – of home. The warm ginger of new baking on a wood table, the immortelle of a fresh spring afternoon, the lazy sunshine of my grandfather’s summer greenhouse, woodsmoke and the whisky peat of the Scottish Highlands after rain. I told her about a bottle of spirit, something very simple, to me : something almost indescribable, so personal it should be. The miracle is that Mathilde made it.

Like This was released in 2010, and contains the following notes:

Yellow mandarin, ginger, pumpkin accord, immortelle, Moroccan neroli, rose de Grasse, vetiver, heliotrope, and musk.

Immortelle, or Helichrysum in Corsica. Source: Wikicommons.

Immortelle, or Helichrysum in Corsica. Source: Wikicommons.

Immortelle is such a key part of this perfume (and such a hugely polarizing note) that it’s worth a brief explanation for those unfamiliar with the name. As Fragrantica explains, immortelle is a flowering plant from the Southern Mediterreanean area which has the smell of either: maple syrup, caramel, fenugreek spice, curry and/or toasted bread. The essential oil “has a strongly straw-like, fruity smell, with a honey and tea undertone.”

Immortelle. Source: The Perfume Shrine.

Immortelle. Source: The Perfume Shrine.

I tested Like This three times, with slightly different outcomes for the opening and longevity. The first time, the perfume started with an airy (but strong) note of fresh, yellow citrus that almost immediately turned sweeter and more floral in nature. The overall image is that of a dry, slightly woody, yellow floral with honeyed sweetness and some dried hay undertones– which is precisely what Immortelle is like in large part. The citrus note isn’t exactly lemon, but it’s not really tangerine, either. It’s more like very honeyed lemon for the first five minutes.

Source: GumaGumalu.com Free Recipes. (Click link for a Carrot Milkshake Recipe.)

Source: GumaGumalu.com Free Recipes. (Click link for a Carrot Milkshake Recipe.)

Soon thereafter, Like This turned milky or lactonic with candied ginger, milky notes, light musk and an airy element of what felt like honey-sweetened vegetables. It wasn’t pumpkin, and it took me a little while to pinpoint it, but it turned out to be glazed carrots. I know Tilda Swinton Like This is supposed to evoke gingerbread houses and pumpkin but, to me, the note was definitely caramelized carrots. It’s actually a lot more attractive than it sounds, especially when combined with the floral elements.

Tilda Swinton Red HairLess than 30 minutes in, Tilda Swinton Like This (honestly, I’m never sure what I’m supposed to call this perfume!) becomes deeper, smokier and woodier as the immortelle starts to bloom. The milky elements fade as a slightly burnt note creeps in, along with a maple syrup accord. A little over an hour later, “Like This” turns into a complete skin scent that is the immortelle’s yellow flower, along with musk over a dry woods element and the merest dusting of maple syrup. It’s all orange-yellow and brown — and that’s about it. By the second hour, I thought it had died completely. Really. It seemed to have vanished. So, I began a test on my other arm when, to my surprise, faint traces of the scent popped up on the first arm a little later before fading away completely at the four-hour mark.

My second test started like the first with that citrus note that rapidly morphed into something sweeter and more floral. Again, the citrus was sweet and turned into tangerine around the five-minute mark, adding a soupçon of tartness under the combination of honey. Again, there were fragrant yellow flowers; candied ginger; and dry, wooded herbals that almost feel like the stems of the immortelle mixed with some hay. This time, however, there were no milky notes that evoked a sweetened, carrot chai. In contrast, there was now the definite scent of heliotrope, adding a candied violet undertone to the scent, along with very noticeable, lemon-nuanced vetiver, and the faintest hint of rose concentrate.

That rose note was a key part of both the second and third tests of Tilda Swinton Like This. It’s never a wholly distinct, individually clear note but, rather, intertwined with the carrot. I know irises can sometimes have a carrot-like undertone, but do roses or heliotrope? Perhaps it’s how the “pumpkin accord” translates to my nose when mixed in with the honeyed syrup aspects of immortelle and the roses, but I’m telling you, Tilda Swinton Like This smells of roses and yellow immortelle flowers heavily intertwined with caramelized carrots — all atop a foundation of dry woods, vetiver, and nutty, butterscotch-like, maple syrup.

Tilda SwintonI realise it all sounds terrible. I mean, honestly, what a combination! It’s as eccentrically odd and chameleon-like as Tilda Swinton herself. And, yet, in some crazy way, it actually works. Forget about the individual notes and just think of a very sweet, but simultaneously dry, honeyed floral scent of pink roses and yellow flowers. Imagine mimosas, almost, if you want. Now, try to think that underneath that, there is something that’s a little bit like warm, sweet carrots and nutty syrup (in lieu of the usual honey). But it’s not incredibly heavy or sugary, because there are some dry, hay-like notes, a woody element and a little bit of fresh green from the vetiver. That is the essence of Tilda Swinton, Like This.

The perfume remains that way for quite a while until, finally, the dry-down starts around the third hour and “Like This” morphs into light, sheer, maple syrup with musk. Whatever happened in terms of the 2-4 hour duration during my first test didn’t repeat itself the second or third time around when “Like This” lasted 9.5 hours and 8 hours, respectively. A change in the dosage was responsible. On all three occasions, however, the perfume had incredibly moderate to low sillage during the first hour, and soon thereafter becomes a skin scent. If you don’t put on a lot and if you’re anosmic to musk, it may appear to be much more fleeting in nature than it actually is. What is a little surprising is that the perfume is moderately strong despite being an airy, sheer scent that lies right on the skin.

Source: The Sweet Life at TheSweetlifeonline.com. (For Pumpkin bread pudding with maple sauce recipe, click photo. Link embedded within.)

Source: The Sweet Life at TheSweetlifeonline.com. (For Pumpkin bread pudding with maple sauce recipe, click photo. Link embedded within.)

I think your skin chemistry will greatly impact how this perfume smells on you, given the unusual combination of notes and the tricky aspect of the immortelle. On me, the flowers came to the forefront with the vegetable, ginger and syrup in the background. On others, however, particularly those commenting on Fragrantica, the situation was reversed. The vast majority talked about ginger and pumpkin up front, with the flowers nestled in the background. A good number also found the perfume to be primarily orange and/or ginger, with pumpkin not being so dominant. A few mentioned the immortelle as a floral note, (as opposed to immortelle manifesting itself as maple syrup), and a handful found that the heliotrope and vetiver were also dominant. Some of the comments may be helpful:

  • Upon first spray, the floral notes (heliotrope particularly) and spices are in equal balance, but as the perfume settles on my skin, the ginger, pumpkin, and immortelle become the stars of the show for several hours. [¶] Toward the end of the dry-down, Like This becomes a feminine, honeyed floral (yes, the floral notes re-emerge!). It is reminiscent of Annick Goutal’s Sables at this stage (an immortelle soliflore), but lighter and less syrupy. And finally, a hint of earthy, slightly leathery vetiver emerges. What a gorgeous ride this one takes you on!
  • The orange-ginger combination does give this fragrance a hint of just baked gingerbread, but dominant immortelle neutralises the sweetness and makes it too herbal to become a foodie dessert scent. I don’t get any pumpkin at all, not much rose either. Vetyver is another prominent note, along with clean musk make Like This a perfect unisex scent [...]
  •  Even though I don’t pick up any of the pumpkin (which was what intrigued me from the reviews) it is absolute magic on my skin. I thought that freesia was my favorite floral, then I thought it was peony, then rose…now I’m certain it’s actually immortelle. LIKE THIS begins so incredibly with the immortelle, and as it dries down the tangerine and the heliotrope & ginger show in stunning form. I ordered a FB within minutes of putting this on.
  • Very light and grassy in a dried way, with a feeling of milky coffee in the back. I really wanted to smell pumpkin, but I don’t really detect that on my skin. The ginger and tangerine are just faintly there, as additions rather than strong presence, and overall it’s a nice but strange scent. It’s a mood almost more than a perfume.

I chose those comments to show you that Like This isn’t perhaps as gourmand as you may think from the description and notes. And, yet, there are plenty who find it very “foodie” — though they seem to be quite enamoured as well. As I said up above, it will really depend on how you feel about immortelle and how it manifests with your particular skin chemistry.

Those who shudder at the very thought of the note may want to consider The Perfume Posse‘s impressions of the scent:

it starts off a little citrus-ish, the ginger and heliotrope waves some flags to let you know it’s not gonna be like that. There’s a little bit of a tinnish feel in the open. And then the nutty pancake syrupy immortelle buzzes – not loud, soft and wafty, like a smoky tendril. The tin is gone, and it starts warming up in some fabulous ways that make my toes curl. I’m not sure I get pumpkin exactly, but there is this pulpy-ness blended into the immortelle that feels like pumpkin with some spice. Pumpkin pie, almonds and pancake syrup without the calories or sweetness. But it’s not really foody. Gourmand quality to it, but just not that. It’s warmer, richer, but completely light and wispy. I would … [never]  believe a perfume with this list of notes would be light and floaty. But it is. Warm, rich, light, floaty and a great big soft hug.

I tried Like This three times in part because I couldn’t decide how I felt about it. (Plus, what initially seemed to be a 2 hour duration in the first test made it easier.) And I’m still ambivalent. It’s definitely intriguing and it also really grows on you! I love the floral aspects of it on me, including the yellowness of the immortelle. And, honestly, that rose concentrate backed by sweet carrots is pretty damn cool! I’m less crazy about the flower’s maple syrup undertone as it manifests itself here. I know I wouldn’t wear Like This if it was primarily pumpkin, ginger, and maple syrup — but that is not what it is on me. However, that is precisely how it appears on a large number of people, so clearly this is a perfume that needs testing (on your actual skin) before purchase. For myself, I don’t think I would ever buy “Like This.” But if a decant or bottle fell into my lap, I would wear it. On occasion….

I think…

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Tilda Swinton Like This is an eau de parfum that comes in two different sizes and which can be purchased directly from ELdO’s online boutique. The prices listed there are in Euros: €79.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle and €119.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. Samples are also available for €3.00. The company also offers two different Discovery Sample Coffrets for different prices. In the U.S., Tilda Swinton Like This can be purchased from Lucky Scent for $99 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, along with samples for $4. You can also purchase Like This from MinNewYork, or C.O. Bigelow. The larger size of the perfume (100 ml/3.4 oz) is carried at Parfum1 where it costs $149, but shipping is free. In the U.K, you can purchase Like This from Les Senteurs for £74.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle; samples are also available. In Europe, Etat Libre d’Orange fragrances can be found at First in Fragrance which sells the 50 ml bottle of Like This for €79, along with samples and a Discovery Set of 10 perfumes in 10 ml vials. Samples can also be purchased from Surrender to Chance, the site where I obtained my vial. The price starts at $5.99 for 1 ml.

Perfume Review: Mona di Orio Vanille (Les Nombres d`Or Collection)

Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red), 1949. Source: The Guggenheim Museum.

Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red), 1949. Source: The Guggenheim Museum.

There is something strangely captivating about Vanille from the highly admired perfume house of Mona di Orio. Vanille is part of Les Nombres d`Or Collection, and it is not your standard vanilla at all. Actually, the best way to sum up the perfume Vanille might be through analogy to the work of the famous painter, Mark Rothko, with his “Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red) 1949.” Like that painting, the perfume starts out as blood-red orange — and I mean that quite literally. Then, it turns into orange with the merest hints of yellow, before slowly transforming into creamy custardy yellow, custardy yellow on a darker, smoky, woody base, and, finally, into the palest of cream.

I wasn’t a fan of the blood-orange phase, and found Vanille’s opening to be almost a little nauseating, but the middle to end phases captured my interest. Almost against my will, I might add. Those of you who have read me for any amount of time know that I like neither very sweet perfumes nor gourmand ones. But, again, this is not your standard vanilla perfume. You might even argue that it is an Oriental-Gourmand hybrid at times, and one which merely happens to be heavily based on raw, concentrated vanilla. In the end, and taken as a whole, Mona di Orio Vanille was not my personal cup of tea, but I would definitely recommend it to those who adore non-traditional vanilla fragrances.

Mona di OrioThe company’s website explains the inspiration and character of the perfume, with a key point about how their key note differs from that used in some other vanilla perfumes:

When composing Vanille, Mona di Orio imagined a romantic back story involving an old ship from long ago, on its way to Madagascar or the Comoros Islands, carrying precious cargo: rum barrels, oranges, vanilla beans, ylang-ylang, cloves and sandalwood …
Gourmand, smoky, and boozy with a subtle aromatic orange note lingering in the background, Vanille is one Bateau Ivre of perfectly blended notes that will derange your senses with its sensuality.Vanille opens with a shot of rum flavoured with orange rind and spiced with cloves. Amber and tonka further warm up this brew as ylang-ylang’s sharp sweetness joins with rich vanilla. Gaiac wood adds incensey smoke as woody notes from vetyver and sandalwood help to create an elegant finish.

But the real star of the show, not surprisingly, is vanilla. Instead of using ethyl vanillin, one of vanilla’s main components that can come across as powdery and sugary, di Orio used pure vanilla in this elixir. For a moment — amid this elegant orchestral arrangement of notes in the key of Vanilla — the pulpy, sensual creaminess of a split vanilla bean is right there in front of your nose. Delicious!

The exact notes are as follows:

Bitter Orange from Brazil, Rhum Absolute, Petitgrain, Clove, Vanilla from Madagascar, Tolu [Balsam, a resin], Gaiac Wood, Vetyver, Sandalwood, Ylang-Ylang, Tonka Bean, Leather, Musk, Amber.

"The Orange Album - Abstract Art, Custom Painting, Imagery" by Bob Shelley at CustomMade.com

“The Orange Album – Abstract Art, Custom Painting, Imagery” by Bob Shelley at CustomMade.com

Vanille opens on my skin with a veritable explosion of orange in every form and variation possible. There is what feels like the most concentrated form of floral orange blossom, along with loads of highly sweetened blood orange, browned and very bitter petitgrain, and rummy Bourbon. This is orange to the Nth degree — sometimes blood-red in nature; heavily dark twig-brown; sometimes rum-like orange-brown, and always sweet. So, so sweet. Frankly, I’m a little overwhelmed.

Orange blossom is not listed in the notes but it is one of the most prominent notes to my nose during those opening minutes. Mona di Orio Vanille doesn’t feel like pulpy, orange or citrus fruits, but more like a combination of neroli and petitgrain. It has an oddly buttery feel to it — and I’m talking about actual melted butter. There are also touches of gaiac wood, the merest suggestion of cloves, and strong vetiver, all over a dry, smoky, vanilla base with cups of bitter petitgrain, and galloping gallons of Bourbon.

Bourbon is an American type of whiskey that is extremely sweet, and tinged with the wood from the charred-oak caskets in which it is aged. The alcohol note in Vanille has been compared to rum but, to me, it’s more akin to the woody, smoked aspect of sweet Bourbon. And it is such a huge part of the opening that the only way to really describe it all is to coin a new word: Bourbon-ized. Every note in the perfume is coated with Bourbon, but the main thrust is bourbonized orange blossom.

Vanilla BeansAfter about 5 minutes, the perfume starts to shift a little. Vanilla starts to rise to the surface. It is just like a freshly sliced vanilla pod; rich, raw, custardy, and potent. It immediately impacts the other notes, softening the orange blossom and taming the bitter petitgrain to something a little less sharp. It serves to alleviate some of the heavier aspects of the perfume that were, to me, unbearably cloying. And, with every passing moment, the sweetness drops — matched by a converse rise in the fragrance’s dry notes.

Less than fifteen minutes into the perfume’s development, Mona di Orio Vanille begins to turn into something much more nuanced and balanced. The pepper, smoke and woody notes appear (much to my relief) in a more individually distinct form. The gaiac wood is backed by the merest suggestion of cloves and earthy vetiver, but it is the slow, quiet, almost muted suggestion of smokiness in the background that I prefer. The perfume is still incredibly potent, rich and heavy, but it is not a cupcake sugariness or something that is purely gourmand. However, it is still far, far too rich for those who like airy, gauzy, sheer perfumes.

Clarified butter.

Clarified butter. Source: Sodahead.com

The note which perplexes me is something that definitely evokes the aroma of melted, clarified butter. I cannot explain it, but it is inescapable. I’ll tell you a brief story of my experience the other day. I planned to test the perfume, opened the vial to give it a sniff, but, then, suddenly, realised the time and that I had to go to my book club meeting. Unbeknownst to me, I must have gotten faint traces of Vanille on my fingers. Well, for the next two hours, I kept asking my hostess, “What is that smell of melted butter and vanilla?” She looked at me blankly, especially as I kept sniffing the air, my shirt, and parts of her kitchen like some sort of crazy person. I thought it may have been one of her hot, very buttered rolls that she had out, but it didn’t smell anything like the aroma that was haunting me. Finally, I realised that the scent came from two of my fingers. It was Mona di Orio’s Vanille. And, I’m telling you, it was just like the most concentrated form of highly sweetened, pure vanilla extract in a saucepan of bright yellow, sweet cream, Bourbon butter, with a touch of orange petitgrain. The note was there during both of my two, full tests of the perfume — and I really didn’t like it. Something about it called to mind the large canisters of cloying, heavy, butter oil that American movie cinemas use on popcorn.

Forty minutes into the development of the perfume, Mona di Orio Vanille is a strong vanilla custard with buttered Bourbon, followed by orange blossom, and muted hints of smoke and wood. On me, both the clove note and the dry, wood, smoke combination are significantly less than what others on Fragrantica and elsewhere have reported. Then, things start to get interesting. There is the merest whiff of ylang-ylang which just grows stronger as the time passes.

Less than 90 minutes in, the perfume becomes a wonderfully balanced, mellow, smooth, floral vanilla custard. The vanilla is still the dominant note, but it is tinged with airy ylang-ylang. The creaminess of the vanilla is perfectly complemented by the custardy, banana-like aspects of the flower which is, itself, balanced by its sheerness and lightness. Underneath it all, there are whispers of orange blossom, woods and vetiver. The buttery note is much more muted now (thank God), and the perfume feels significantly less opaque, gooey and unctuously sweet. In fact, even the sillage has dropped to a perfect amount, projecting in such a small cloud around you.

I started to smile and sniff my arm with some enthusiasm exactly two and a half hours in, when the sandalwood appeared. Creamy, soft, luxurious, rich sandalwood was intertwined sinuously with the vanilla, creating a silky, smooth, wonderfully blended scent. There were some mysteriously tantalizing hints of smoke and woodiness in the background that made Vanille seem a little more like an Oriental/Gourmand hybrid than a purely gourmand one. It’s almost as if there is some incense note but, like the clove one before it, it’s far from prominent on my skin. I still wouldn’t go so far as to call Vanille an incense-vanilla fragrance the way so many others do, but it is a lovely, subtle touch at this stage.

For reasons I can’t quite explain, Mona di Orio Vanille makes me think of Serge LutensUn Bois Vanillé which I like quite a bit. It’s a peculiar thought as they actually aren’t very alike. Mona di Orio’s perfume is monumentally richer, stronger, deeper, thicker, and more Oriental with its floral and smoky touches. The Lutens is milkier, creamier, with almond, licorice, light coconut, and honey. No flowers or buttered Bourbon at all. And the vanilla never feels raw, like concentrated pod paste as it does here with the Mona di Orio. However, Un Bois Vanillé does share the guaiac wood and sandalwood notes which combine with the vanilla to create a definitely smoky, woody, vanilla feel at certain stages — even if it is substantially lighter and milder. Perhaps the similarity in my mind stems from the fact that I haven’t encountered a lot of woody vanilla-sandalwood fragrances, as opposed to purely dessert and cupcake ones (which I despise).

Mark Rothko. "No. 14-10 Yellow Greens."

Mark Rothko. “No. 14-10 Yellow Greens.”

As the perfume starts the dry-down phase, a little over six hours later, Mona di Orio Vanille turns into a tonka vanilla perfume with sandalwood, quiet amber, a touch of wood, and subtle orange notes lurking in the background. It’s sheer, soft, and pleasant. In its final moments, about 9.5 hours, it’s really just simple tonka with some amorphous, lightly musked, woody note. All in all, Vanille lasted just short of 10 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. It was a strong perfume throughout much of its early development, but the sillage went from heavy to moderate by the second hour, then dropped further as the perfume progressed. It became a skin scent around the fifth hour.

The comments on Fragrantica are all over the place for Mona di Orio Vanille. The majority absolutely love it, calling it a well-balanced, smoky vanilla with lots of wood. A number find the opening to be unpleasant; a large number call the fragrance a dirty, complex vanilla that is their favorite; some compare the vanilla note to that in Dior‘s Addict; and a handful comment on how it is essentially “Rum, rum, rum. I hope you like rum, because…rum.” There are scattered statements here or there on how parts of the perfume are stomach-churning or “nearly nauseating.” I would bet you anything that it’s the Bourbonized butter and orange combination that the commentators are finding to be excessively cloying. I certainly felt queasy myself.

Yet, one of the bloggers whom I respect — The Non-Blonde — really adored this fragrance and you may find parts of her review to be instructive:

Vanille is reasonably sweet and somewhat ambery, but the main thing that’s amplified on my skin and tales me on some serious ride is sandalwood. Sandalwood like I haven’t smelled in ages: deep exotic and spicy as well as creamy. It’s a very posh cousin of the chai-sandalwood blend from Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant.

Vanille progresses from slightly boozy and intoxicating to smooth and mysterious. There’s no question about sex-appeal: this would get you sniffed and followed around. The vanilla is woven into every stage of the development and belongs there, be it as part of hot toddy, a treasured spice in a craved wooden box or a rare incense that sends you off on a fantasy journey. 

If I had experienced as much sandalwood and incense on my skin as she seems to have done, I may have been a little more bowled over by the fragrance. I am certain, however, that I would still have enormous difficulty with the opening two hours. I’ve got some more of the Vanille (yet again) on my arm as we speak, and I simply cannot handle the Bourbon butter.

How you feel about Mona di Orio Vanille will really depend on how you feel about the main note, and gourmand fragrances as a whole. Those who love truly sweet, fully dessert-like fragrances may find it not to be sweet enough. This is no simple, uncomplicated Bath & Body Works vanilla. Those who enjoy the note in conjunction with other things may really appreciate this non-traditional, smoky woods and orange version of things. And those who are like me — who love spiced Orientals or super-charged florals, who wouldn’t go out of their way to experience a vanilla scent, and who eschew sweetness in any significant degree — may enjoy parts of the Mona di Orio, but not the whole. I definitely can’t see them being wow’ed enough by the overall experience to want a full bottle of it, especially as it costs $230. There are, however, different sizes and pricing options that may make Mona di Orio Vanille more accessible for those who adore their vanilla.

As a side note, this fragrance is absolutely nothing like Guerlain‘s Spiritueuse Double Vanille. Two very different kettles of fish. It’s been a long time since I smelled Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise, but, going on my memory of it, I don’t think the Goutal is similar, either. Despite deploying an incense twist on vanilla, it’s not as rich as the Mona di Orio, has much less concentrated vanilla, and includes quite a bit of bitter angelica. I believe Montale has a woody, boozy vanilla fragrance amongst its vast line, but I haven’t tried it. Lastly, Mona di Orio Vanille has absolutely nothing in common with Tom Ford‘s Private Blend Tobacco Vanille. The latter has dried tobacco leaves that occasionally create an impression of Christmas plum pudding. No part of Mona di Orio’s notes replicate the predominantly tobacco-woods or the spices in the Tom Ford. Furthermore, the type of vanilla and the fundamental nature of the fragrances are very different, too.

All in all, if you adore rich, sophisticated, boozy, vanilla fragrances with a non-traditional twist, you may want to give Mona di Orio’s Vanille a sniff.

DETAILS:
Cost, Sizes, Sets & Availability: Les Nombres d`Or Vanille is an eau de parfum, and comes in a variety of different options and sizes. The full bottle is 3.4 oz/100 ml and costs $230. It is available world-wide on the Mona di Orio website. In the U.S., you can find it at Luckyscent, Parfum1, and MinNewYork (which also offers free shipping within the US). There is also a Discovery Set of 8 x 5ml roll-on bottles of the entire Nombres d’Or collection which Mona di Orio sells for €90, and Luckyscent/ Parfum1 for $145. MinNY discounts the set for $5 off, pricing it at $140. Mona di Orio also offers a Travel Set of just the Vanille perfume in 3 bottles of 10 ml each, with the whole set priced at €85 (or about $110 with today’s currency conversion rate). That set is not offered at Luckyscent or Parfum1. In Canada, The Perfume Shoppe carries its own sort of “Discovery Set” of 4 perfumes in the Nombres d’Or collection, one of which is Vanille. It retails for CAD$100. Oddly, I don’t see the full bottle on their website when searching by brand name, but I found it via a Google search listed here and marked as “available.” It’s also marked as selling for $170, which I don’t understand at all. So, you may want to drop them an email. In the UK, you can find Vanille at Les Senteurs which sells it for £135.00 and which also carries a sample vial for sale. The perfume is also carried on Roullier White in the UK. In Paris, I see Mona di Orio listed on the Marie Antoinette Paris website but can’t find prices or individual perfumes for the line. For the rest of Europe, you can turn to Germany’s First in Fragrance which carries the perfume for €160.00, along with a Travel Kit of 3 x 10 ml bottles for €85, and a smaller sample for purchase. For all other countries from Russia to Netherlands to the UAE/Dubai, you can use the Store Locator guide on the company website. Samples: I obtained mine from Surrender to Chance which sells them starting at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial. Of course, you can also find samples at Luckyscent, Parfum1, and many of the European retailers linked to above.

Perfume Review – Arquiste L’Etrog

L'Etrog presentation on the Arquiste website.

L’Etrog presentation on the Arquiste website.

October 1175. Calabria, Italy. South of Naples, northeast of Sicily. “During the First Crusade, Southern Italy fell to the Normans, which encouraged Calabrian Jews to engage in the agricultural trades. By the 12th century, the communities were thriving. Since then, the harvest of the Diamante Citron or Etrog has remained a regional tradition.” Etrog is even described in the Bible in connection to the Garden of Eden. “The fragrance is said to be the ‘Fragrance of Heaven’, and the Etrog itself is associated with righteousness, goodness and desirability.”

Carlos Huber.

Carlos Huber.

October 1175 in Calabria, history and the etrog fruit are the specific inspirations for L’Etrog by the American niche perfume house, Arquiste. Founded by the architect turned perfumer (and now, designer), Carlos Huber, Arquiste always attempts to bottle a specific moment in history. It’s something that I greatly admire, as history has always been one of my greatest passions in life. And, here, the mission is not only to capture the festival of L’Etrog in Norman-conquered Calabria, but also the very feel of life in the Mediterranean itself.

Arquiste elaborates further on the exact mental picture that the perfume is meant to evoke:

In Medieval Calabria, a family gathers to celebrate a good harvest. Within a cabin built of Palm leaves and other woody branches, an aromatic bounty is presented. The citrusy scent of the Etrog citron, a regional specialty, brightens the air while embracing Myrtle and lush Date Fruit envelope the sweet warmth of the Mediterranean night.

L'EtrogReleased in late 2011, L’Etrog is described as a “citrus chypre” and was created by Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann VasnierOn its website, Arquiste says:

The brisk character of Myrtle marries with leafy nuances, emulating the freshly opened fronds of palm trees. An unexpected mouthwatering accent follows, with Smyrna Date fruit and elegant Cedar wood from Lebanon.

Cedar, however, is not explicitly included in L’Etrog’s official notes on the Arquiste website which merely list:

Calabrese Cedrat [Citron], Myrtle, Date Fruit and Vetiver

Elsewhere, however, department store retailers like Barneys and blogs like CaFleureBon quote the press release description which states the perfume is: “a citrus chypre with citron, palm leaves, willow branches, myrtle and dates.” So, let’s just assume that “willow branches” and “palm leaves” are in there, along with cedar, too.

Diamante Citron or Etrog.

Diamante Citron or Etrog.

As for the fruit in question, internet research tells me that cedrat is a type of very large, fruity lemon with a thick rind and little acidity. It has many different names: cedrat seems to be one linguistic version of the term citron (which is the main French name) and seems to be the same as etrog which Wikipedia tells me is the Hebrew version. Whatever the linguistics, the fruit looks a bit like its close cousin, the pomelo, but doesn’t smell (or taste) like a grapefruit.

I’m a little OCD, so forgive my brief digression into history for a moment. First, Arquiste’s comment on the Normans would seem to imply that they were responsible for agriculture successes in the region, when I think that history would argue it was the Saracens or Moors. Starting in the late 9th Century, they invaded the area in southern Italy that includes Calabria and that later became part of the larger Kingdom of Sicily. It was the Moors who seriously impacted both the agriculture and the cuisine (not to mention the architecture); who brought over things like dates, oranges and lemons; and whose advancements in agricultural techniques led to the thriving cultivation of those citrus crops — techniques that, I would argue, were the sole reason for the bounty of the etrog on that day in October 1175 during the Jewish festival of Sukkot. It was not the bloody Normans! They were merely the subsequent conquerors. So, while Robert Guiscard admittedly encouraged the Calabrian Jews, it was the Moors who got the whole ball rolling to start with in what has been termed the Arab Agricultural Revolution. (Sorry for the tangent, but that esoteric point has been bothering me for hours and hours.)(And hours!)

Second, and returning to the perfume now, I don’t understand how L’Etrog is supposed to be even a neo-chypre, let alone an actual one. There is no oakmoss; there isn’t even the patchouli that is sometimes considered as an alternative foundational base. Is vetiver alone now enough? Not in my opinion.

Citron.

Citron.

I tested L’Etrog twice, using different quantities and resulting in a very different openings. The first time, my hand slipped and quite a large amount gushed out of the vial onto my arm. It was a vision of bright, sunny, yellow with sweet lemon that wasn’t zesty so much as slightly fruity and rich. There were also elements of light vetiver and myrtle. According to Fragrantica, myrtle oil is said to have a scent similar to eucalyptus but here, during the first test, there is a minty undertone instead. It creates a slightly chilled, very energizing effect that is lovely. At the same time, however, something about the overall combination leads to a definite impression of Theraflu or LemSip cold powder. As the seconds passed, the minty touches grow stronger, creating more of a fizzy, sparkling aspect than just mere fruity citron.

After 15 minutes, the perfume changes slightly. The fruity aspect of the citron grows stronger, but it doesn’t seem at all like dates, per se. In fact, there is nothing reminiscent of sweetly dark, dried fruits at all. At the same time, the vetiver also becomes more prominent, adding a quiet earthiness to the scent. What is more interesting, however, is the interplay between the vetiver and the myrtle.

Eucalyptus leavesOn one part of my arm, the peppermint note has transformed into eucalyptus, nullifying much of the sweet lemon but accentuating the vetiver. L’Etrog shows itself here as a spicy, mentholated eucalyptus with vetiver that is simultaneously earthy, rooty and touched by nuances of green citrus. On another part, however, it remains as peppermint, enabling the sweet, fruited lemon to show itself. Here, L’Etrog is a fruity lemon scent with a more generalized, abstract woody undertone. In both cases, however, the perfume is incredibly light, airy, and sheer. It’s much more akin to a cologne in feel and becomes a skin scent in as little as 20 minutes on my skin.

At the ninety minute mark during this first test, L’Etrog is a sheer lemon vetiver scent with the merest hint of woody, peppery elements and a bare drop of sweetness. Something in the undertone feels a little like ISO E Super, but it’s extremely light. The perfume remains this way for a number of hours until, around fifth hour, it turns into a thin veil of musky vetiver with a hint of lemony fruit. By the ninth hour, the last traces of L’Etrog are soapy musk with vetiver. Soon thereafter, it faded away entirely.

Joy Dishwashing liquidMy second test of L’Etrog involved a far lesser quantity and, as a result, led to a very different opening. This time, the perfume opened with spicy lemon (not a sweetly fruited one) intertwined completely with very woody vetiver. There was also quite a noticeable amount of soap from the start, and the myrtle showed no minty aspects at all. Instead, it was all eucalyptus. The whole lemon, vetiver, soap mix strongly called to mind lemon liquid dishwashing liquid. It wasn’t unpleasant, but the Joy similarities couldn’t be ignored.

Another big difference was the presence of ISO E Super. I don’t know why it was so much more evident at a lesser quantity of L’Etrog, as opposed to the greater dosage, but I’m absolutely convinced it’s there. L’Etrog had a slightly velvety wood undertone with that telltale, giveaway sign of peppery, rubbing alcohol. The ISO E Super is not enormously prominent, and it does fade away after an hour, but given the headaches that even small amounts can cause people who are sensitive to the note, I wanted to warn you.

By the second hour, during the second test, L’Etrog was primarily a vetiver scent with lemon nuances, a woody undertone, and the merest whisper of light musk. And it remained that way until the final drydown when it turned, again, more of a soapy, light musk. The perfume was so close to the skin, it was incredibly hard to smell at times. Clearly, this is a perfume that — like a cologne — will require a significant quantity if you want to detect its nuances. And, even then, you’re going to have to put your nose directly on your skin after the first hour. All in all, the perfume lasted a little under 7 hours with the lesser amount.

L’Etrog wasn’t my cup of tea. True, my personal style and tastes are very different, but I also found it disappointing as a whole. Ignoring completely the sillage issue, L’Etrog was a tame, boring, linear creation that really just played off lemon and vetiver. Perhaps if I’d smelled actual dates, I would have been more excited. But I doubt it. Lemon and vetiver are the primary strands of this perfume, with everything else being merely a tangential, occasional touch — from eucalyptus, to soap, to amorphous woody notes, to ISO E Super, to musk. They can’t take away from the main, most evident thrust of the perfume. Even the lemon itself wasn’t unique, the way the descriptions of Calabrese cedrat or etrog had led me to expect. In short, L’Etrog simply isn’t that interesting — not at $165 for a 55 ml/1.8 oz bottle. It actually verges on the banal and mundane. I far preferred Arquiste’s fabulous, wonderfully nuanced, sophisticated, rich Anima Dulcis.

On Fragrantica, the comments vary. There are those who find it “super wearable” but admit that they don’t have “the most trained of nose palates,” and then there are established commentators like the hardcore perfumista, “Sherapop,” who found L’Etrog to be a pleasant, somewhat quirky perfume that is “nice… but not compelling.” She reached that conclusion despite smelling not only the dates, but some candied sweetness and some caramel. (So, perhaps I didn’t miss out on anything after all?) Interestingly, she seems to have first smelled the perfume blind as part of Chandler Burr’s Untitled Series and thought that it was Histoires de Parfums 1873 (“Colette“). In a side by side test, before the reveal, she detected small differences, but not much. The similarity is something to keep in mind if you have tested or own Colette.

But Sherapop wasn’t the only one who gave a shrug of “meh” to L’Etrog. Another commentator, “Alfarom,” succinctly summed up the perfume as follows:

A citron hologram introduces a honestly crafted woody-citrus fragrance that’s refined, nice smelling and very wearable. The woody notes (incredibly not overdone) and some sweetness, provide some sustain to an otherwise extremely fleeting composition that while resulting definitely pleasant, it still doesn’t have the ability to stand out in todays overpopulated niche market…

Nice yet somewhat forgettable.

That said, for those who want a simple, light, sheer, summery, lemon vetiver cologne that is utterly inoffensive, you may want to try L’Etrog. It would be appropriate for even the most conservative office environment. No perfume Nazi would be bothered, simply because they wouldn’t be able to detect it; unless they had sensitivities to ISO E Super, in which case, you may be screwed….

  

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: L’Etrog costs US $165, CAD $200, £125.00 or €149. It comes only as an eau de parfum and is available only in a 55 ml/ 1.85 oz size. In the US, it is available on the Arquiste website, Barneys, and Aedes. In Canada, the Arquiste line is available at Holt Renfrew Bloor in Toronto (though I could not locate it on the overall Holt Renfrew website), or at Etiket in Montreal for CAD $200. Each store is the exclusive dealer for the Arquiste line in their city. In the UK, it is available for £125.00 at Liberty London which also ships throughout Europe. In France, you can find it at Jovoy Paris where it retails for €149. Elsewhere, you can use Arquiste’s “Stockists” page to find a retailer near you. Samples are available at Surrender to Chance where the price starts at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. The site also sells all 7 perfumes from the Arquiste line in a sample pack for $33.99.

Perfume Review: “The People v. Xerjoff Zafar” – Prosecution & Defense

The People v. Xerjoff Zafar- Case # 13-276891XZ

[The Bailiff]: “All rise! The Court is now in session, The Honorable Charles Highblossom presiding. On the docket, The People v. Xerjoff Zafar, Case # 13-276891XZ. The charge is olfactory assault and battery. State your name and business before the Court.”

[A small, goat-like, balding man rises]: “I am the District Attorney, Luke Sneering.”

[A tiny, dark woman wearing a custom-made Chanel suit rises]: “I am Loverly Limburger from the firm of Wealthy Lawyers, Screw Them, & Howe representing the Defendant, Sheikh Zafar of Xerjoff.”

Source: "Black Gold" movie still.

Source: “Black Gold” movie still.

[She points to the table where a young, handsome Arab man sits with his dark beard, long robes, piles and piles of heavy gold chains, and a peculiar collage of rubbery pink bandages on his arm.]

[The white-wigged judge bangs his gavel]: “The Prosecution may proceed.”

THE PROSECUTION:

Source: CaFleurBon

Source: CaFleurBon

[The D.A., Mr. Sneering]: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. We are here to convict Zafar of Xerjoff with olfactory crimes. The case before you is limited only to the criminal issues of assault and battery. You may have heard in the news of the civil suits brought by the Blue Cheese Industry and the Barnyard Manure Lobby for defamation and misrepresentation, respectively, but you cannot consider those issues. All you are allowed to decide is whether Zafar is an assault on your nose.

oud_zafarpackLet us start at the beginning. Zafar, along with his siblings in the Oud Stars collection, was let loose upon the unsuspecting public in 2012. He comes from the prestigious, exclusive, uber-expensive Italian perfume house of Xerjoff and is the creation of Sergio MomoSonia Espelta and Laura Santander. His parts, according to Luckyscent, consist of:

Rose, Green Apple, Black Pepper, Neroli from Morocco, Oud Laos, White Flowers, Cedar, Incense, Vetyver Haiti, Musk.

Blue cheese close-up via Flickr.com

Blue cheese close-up via Flickr.com

Zafar’s character is revealed from the very first moment he sidles up against your skin. There is a blast of cheese. Specifically, the Italian blue cheese of his homeland, Gorgonzola. It’s oddly sweetened, yet also a little off, and quite rancid. Veins of metallics and pepper run through, with just the merest hint of florals. The whole thing sits atop a foundation of extremely rubbery, pink bandages — the sort you’d cheaply buy from a drugstore — and a strong tinge of rubbing alcohol.

By all accounts, Zafar then shifts into something even more frightening. I did not experience it for myself, but plenty of people have. You see, the blue cheese is but the start. Soon, within less than 10 minutes, Zafar takes you to the barnyard to roll around in sheep and horse manure. 

Source: Flickr.com

Source: Flickr.com

I see the look of skepticism on your face at the thought of rancid but slightly sweetened blue cheese and pink rubber, drugstore bandages being followed by wet mounds of animal feces. Well, let me present as witnesses some posters from Fragrantica.

[The court security guards escort in some very pale, wan looking witnesses, some of whom are still holding onto small buckets reeking of vomit. In between dry heaves, they vow to 'tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,' so help them God. And then they testify.]

  •  this is a roller coaster ride through the farm I think. This begins with a cheesy note and then goes right to the barnyard with a totally fecal smell. Sorry, folks, but that’s what it is. I grew up on a farm and I know that smell-this one is somewhere between horse and sheep manure. It lasts for almost 15 minutes, then the juice smells like maybe flowers growing in the manure, and then like rotten fruit left in the garbage too long. Manure
  • A blast of smoky agarwood opens this terrific composition bringing to mind of creamy bluecheese and animalic secrections. [¶] … It’s an assault to your senses in the meaning that unless you’re completely aware of what you’re just about to smell, you’ll probably be disgusted.
  • Strap yourself in and prepare for a bumpy ride.lol…… This opens with a strong smell of cheese in a barnyard with a peppery apple freshness. [...] this is imo definitely one for the Oud connoisseur as I cannot see many people getting past the first half hour.

The final testimony is that of the Complainant, a perfumista who shall only be known as “Kevin” and whose experience with this perfume led to the present court action. Unfortunately, “Kevin” has since suffered a complete black-out on this issue. His deeply traumatized mind refuses to return to the scene of the crime, if you wilI, so I will read to you his sworn testimony that was presented to the Grand Jury:

Upon dabbing on my sample of Zafar, I wretched. Audibly and continuously. Never in my life have I smelled anything so repulsive, and I have worked as a janitor and have performed animal dissections on week-old pigs.

Picture if you will, a filthy, heinous, broken and nightmarish Penn Station toilet. Then, picture filling it with pounds of the most rancid, pungent blue cheese you can imagine. Now picture blending the filth with an immersion blender and heating it on a stove. You now have only an inkling of the atrocities of Zafar.

Zafar struck a fear in me that made me doubt all perfume.  How could something so expensive, from such a prestigious house, smell so outrageously bad? [...]

If there were a challenge to which required me to create the most outrageously bad perfume, I couldn’t even begin to imagine the horrors of Zafar. It is truly that repulsive. And while many claim perfumes shouldn’t be judged on their opening, there is no way any sane person could withstand the opening for a drydown that is only better in the sense that it doesn’t make you wretch, cower, and want to crawl out of your own skin and wish you had no sense of smell whatsoever.

You don’t believe Kevin, I can see it in your eyes. Well, we shall prove it to you. Guards! Bring in the testers!”

[The guards set up two, tiny canisters at each end of the room. The jury shifts in their chairs nervously. A small phalanx of the judge's clerks tiptoe in and discreetly set up small garbage cans at intervals along the gallery and the jury box. The District Attorney dramatically puts on a giant gas mask, akin to those used by soldiers in the first Persian Gulf War when there were fears of Saddam Hussein using chemical warfare against American troops. Mr. Sneering points to the guards and nods.

Pfft. Pfft. Pfft.

Abstract Black Smoke via mobile-wallpapers

Three small whiffs of scent are released from each of the two canisters. Massive chunks of veiny blue cheese leap out, followed closely by limburger cheese in a slightly sweetened white robe. Rubber bandages dance around, one by one, on their bendy pink tails. Pink rubber bandaidCorked bottles of black pepper and rubbing alcohol run up to the jury -- and explode in their face. A simpering rose swirls up like a pink genie to hover in the background. Awaiting its eventual turn in the spotlight, hours later, is a very gaunt specter of Incense robed in smoky black. Meanwhile, horses, cows and sheep run amok, their hooves dripping manure on the courtroom's impeccable floors. One cow decides to defecate right before the Jury Foreman who turns his head and vomits into the lap of Juror #2 beside him. Who then promptly faints.

Incense stick. Source: Stock footage and Shutterstock.com.

Incense stick. Source: Stock footage and Shutterstock.com.

There is an audible gasp from the gallery. A few women reach hurriedly for the vomit pails lining the aisles. But not everyone has turned green with horror. A few men can’t see the animal specters at all. There is no manure whatsoever to their oblivious nose. They have a blissfully happy expression as they sniff the woody base. To them, Zafar is a wonderfully true, authentic oud with luxuriously strong black incense, peppery cedar and a whiff of florals. They don’t mind the medicinal nature of the agarwood and they admire the earthy vetiver, alongside that primal “noble rot.” Zafar sees their face and gives them a wink.

His Honour, the Judge, decides enough time has passed for evidentiary analysis. He orders the olfactory notes back into their cannisters, the windows opened, and the rather large piles of unpleasant droppings to be cleaned up, before banging for a recess. He contemplates ordering a Gorgonzola salad for lunch, but decides that may create an impression of bias. 

After lunch, the court reconvenes, and the District Attorney continues with the People’s case.]

“Ladies and gentlemen, I apologise most profusely for subjecting you to those horrors. And before lunch, no less! But you needed to experience Zafar for yourself. My final point about Zafar is this scoundrelly knave’s cost. Not only is he battering you with olfactory misery, but he’s fleecing your wallet while he’s doing it! Do you know how much he is charging your for this foray into trauma? Almost $400 for a small bottle! To be precise, $395 (before tax and/or shipping) for a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle of eau de parfum. You can order it from Luckyscent or MinNewYork if you have money to burn, but would you really want to? To quote “Kevin” and his testimony to the Grand Jury:

The fact that Xerjoff dares to price this product of chemical warfare at $395 is absurd. It should be priced at $1 billion so that no one ever has enough money to smell it. In fact, making someone smell Zafar should be sufficient to get one charged with a war crime.

But we are not here to convict Zafar of being massively over-priced; grand larceny is not one of the charges, though perhaps it should be. No, we are here to judge Zafar on the merits, and the evidence clearly demands that you convict! Save the people of the world, leave blue cheese where it belongs, eradicate manure from perfumery, and CONVICT!”

THE DEFENSE:

[The defense attorney, Loverly Limburger, Esq.,rises and speaks]: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, thank you for taking the time out of your busy lives to be here today and to help settle this incredibly unjust charge against my client. You know, if I were just to listen to the District Attorney, I would convict too! But he has presented an extremely one-sided version of Zafar. In fact, I would go so far as to say his intentional omission of some key facts should warrant investigation by the Bar Ethics Committee!

Take, for example, the witness testimony from Fragrantica. My, my, what selective cropping and editing. What Mr. Sneering failed to add was how almost all of those comments ended with positive appreciation of Zafar’s luxurious nature. For example:

  • Finally after much patience, a pleasant oud, woody fragrance emerges, really smelling like fresh cut wood. To my utter amazement it was nice. This is definitely a man’s fragrance, but if any of you guys decide to wear this, please warn your significant other that this one will take a while before it smells good.
  • This takes at least thirty minutes to calm down into something acceptable and when it does a incense accord comes to the forefront with that apple freshness. Then woods and some florals start to come through the peppery incense apple freshness. In the drydown the woods & vetiver start to dominate over the incense accord. [...] The ingredients are top notch as you would expect from Xerjoff and this does have real Oud in all its skanky glory.

No, the District Attorney has presented a very lopsided, distorted picture of Zafar. He even conveniently leaves out the positive reviews from sites like CaFleureBon and Perfume-Smellin’ Things. I call to the stand as an expert witness, Mark Behnke, the Managing Editor of CaFleureBon!

[The Bailiff administers the oath and the witness settles in to provide his testimony.]

This. Is. Oud. Period. If you have come to appreciate oud in all of its qualities and subtlety Zafar is a fragrance you must try. Not only is it Laotian oud it is Laotian oud from Malaysian Agarwoodold trees over 15 years old. That extra age adds a more resinous quality to what is already an intense note. If that was the only jewel on display in Zafar that would be great but a truly spectacular incense from Oman is also present to take the resinous quality off the scale, in a good way. Zafar opens with a rose note sprinkled with black pepper to accentuate the spicy. The old trees Laotian oud takes over the middle of Zafar and the incense then swirls out of the oud. In the middle part of this development I felt like I was in a meditation garden surrounded by the most expensive incense sticks ever. It truly felt like a religious experience for me. Eventually vetiver and cedar break the spell but not for a long while. The two stars of this Oud Star take hold and try not to let go.

Now, I can just see the D.A. spluttering in his chair about the nature of CaFleureBon as a site that never (ever) has one bad thing to say about any perfume, including cheap celebrity creations. I can see Mr. Sneering struggling to contain himself about how they are a site that caters to advertising dollars and PR teams, so they cannot be seen as anything but biased. Perhaps. That will be for you to evaluate. But, lest you think it’s just CaFleureBon, let me present to you another witness, the respected blogger from Perfume-Smellin’ Things:

“Zafar” means “victory” in Arabic and Xeroff has certainly succeeded in creating a perfume that is as sensuous, multifaceted and provocative as many of the Arabian perfume oils that are popular in the Middle East. Oud really stands out in this blend. No attempt has been made to tame or disguise it so its primal energy is unmistakable. To combine it with rose and musk is very much in the “Arabic” tradition, and for that reason this perfume seems especially “authentic”. The animalic snarliness of oud and the sweet earthiness of patchouli are the most prominent components of the scent, however they aren’t so strong as to obscure the crimson headiness of rose, the heavy sensuality of white flowers or the cool, herbal breeziness of vetiver. I began this review by saying that “oud can be challenging”. “Zafar” is a challenge worth meeting head on- it’s dark; it’s bold and it’s daring. Xerjoff has earned the laurels for creating this perfume, but I intend to share them by wearing it!

It’s a very different take on Zafar than what the District Attorney presented, no? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit to you that this is the true picture of Zafar. Ignore the allegations of barnyard turds or rancid, heated Gorgonzola. Focus instead on the fact that this is not only the very rare Laotian oud, but super-aged rare oud at that! Consider the fact that genuine agarwood is meant to smell a certain way, right down to the rubbery pink bandages, and that this is meant to be a truly Arab fragrance. You can hardly blame Zafar for that, can you? He was born that way. There was no intent to batter you. And, without mens rea, there can be no crime.

In short, you must acquit!”

[The Defense sits down, and the jury leaves for its deliberations. There is no word from them for two days, until finally a message arrives that they are hopelessly deadlocked. The Judge even gives them an Allen Charge to make them try to resolve their differences. Then, finally on the third day, they return.]

THE VERDICT:

Hung jury.

[Six jurors voted to convict the very second they set foot in the jury room. They refused to even try on the perfume for additional tests. The seventh was persuaded to their side after an extra-long bout with incredibly antiseptic, medicinal, rubbery, peppery oud that remained on her skin until the perfume faded away.

However, five jurors held out, stubbornly ignoring the issue of the rancid, moldy blue cheese. They didn't want to blame Zafar for being, perhaps, what he was meant to be. Three of them actually enjoyed the fragrance after that difficult opening. None of them, however, were willing to spend $395 to buy it. ]

***

Disclosure: I am an attorney and former trial lawyer, but I never practiced criminal law, only civil. This is not intended to be a proper depiction of a trial or of the law. It is a parody that is meant only in fun, though the essence of the perfume is accurate.