An ancient Persian mosque in Qom, replete with the smell of cedar. A man dressed in the colours of the dry desert sits next to a woman veiled in crimson. They sip cherry wine served in cups made of cedar and latex. The desert wind blows a fine mist of clean oud into swirls of black rubbered smoke and white, sweetened, heliotrope powder. The sour tartness of rubied cherries lies against the white of fresh almonds and the silky creamy of vanilla. Then, the desert wind blows its dry breath again, and the images change, turning into a vista of cream, powder, dry woods, and softness. It’s the story of contrasts — light and dark, masculine and feminine, harsh blackness and soft sweetness, all tinged with cherried ash. Is it a tale from Le Rouge et Le Noir by Stendhal? No, it is the Persian fabric of Qom Chilom by Stéphane Humbert Lucas.
Qom Chilom is a 2014 parfum extrait released by the fledgling Paris niche house, Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 (hereinafter just referred to as “SHL 777“). It bears the name of its founder, a man who has been working in the perfume industry for a while, most recently as the in-house perfumer for SoOud and Nez à Nez. Mr. Lucas launched his new SHL 777 brand in 2013 with 7 fragrances, all of which are inspired by the Orient and their style of perfumery. This year, just a few weeks ago in fact, he released several new scents, one of which is Qom Chilom.
Up to now, the perfumes were exclusive to Europe and Middle Eastern, but there is excellent news. The complete SHL 777 line will be coming to America in a few weeks, including the new releases like Qom Chilom. They will be carried at Luckyscent and Osswald NYC. Monsieur Lucas kindly and graciously sent me samples of his entire collection, and I will be going through them, one by one, over the next 10 days so that you will be well prepared when the fragrances hits the stores. Today, we travel to Persia, but soon after that will be the fantastic amber, O Hira (which blew my socks off), the smoky new Oud 777, the gourmand Une Nuit à Doha, and the superb Black Gemstone which was love at first sniff for me.
Qom Chilom was inspired by the ancient mosque city of Qom in Persia and the narguile smoke pipes of the Orient. Like the rest of the SHL 777 line, Qom Chilom is a pure parfum or extrait in concentration with more than 20% perfume oils. (I believe the precise number may be 24%.) The perfume is about to be released, so there isn’t a lot of information out there about it and Stéphane Humbert Lucas’s website is currently under construction.
However, he wrote to me about the perfume and its notes. For example, the plume on the red-lacquered bottle is meant to symbolise the Imperial Peacock Throne of the shahs, while the perfume’s aromatic woodiness (and subtle smokiness) seeks to evoke the ancient rites of the past. At the heart of Qom Chilom is the concept and colour palette of “red ash” or “rouge cendré”: woodiness infused with cherries and turned quietly to ash.
According to Monsieur Lucas, Qom Chilom’s notes include:
Morello cherry – Bigarreau cherry – Raspberry
Heliotrope – Imperial Almond – Iris – Blue Cedar
Patchouly – Oud – Teak – Barks – Latex – Vanilla absolute – Musk
Qom Chilom opens on my skin with a burst of Morello sour cherries whose bright, unsweetened tartness is thoroughly infused with black rubber latex, then misted with a clean oud. There is a definite medicinal note that swirls all around, and, for the life of me, I cannot pinpoint its source. It is probably the cedar which feels very green, since the oud seems too clean to my nose. On the other hand, it might be the patchouli which took me two tests to detect behind all the woody notes. It is hidden almost out of sight, fully overshadowed of the strong cedar and latex, but its brief, muted presence also translates as green and camphorous.
Whatever the precise cause of the medicinal aroma, there is absolutely no doubt what the overall effect smells like on my skin: cherry cough drops. It’s a distinctive smell that was instantly recognizable, wafting a camphorousness that almost verged on cherry eucalyptus at times. Definite flecks of greenness are interspersed throughout the ruby and black colour palette, which seems to exclude the oud as being the cause. It might be the patchouli but, honestly, that note is virtually nonexistent on my skin.
What is interesting is the black part of the perfume. Initially, for a fleeting moment, the latex conveyed the smell of tires burning on hot asphalt, before transitioning into smokiness. At times, there is almost textural rubberiness to the note, but it primarily smells like a harsh, rough sort of black smoke.
Qom Chilom’s blackness is masculine but it is soon tamed by softer, sweeter notes. There is an absolutely lovely touch of raw almonds that really took me back to my childhood. Every summer, I would get bags and bags of raw almonds, crack open the green, fuzzy pods, and suck on the white treasures within. It’s been years since I’ve smelled anything similar or been so transported, but Qom Chilom has that same delicate greenness and liquidy nuttiness. Alas for me, the note is subtle, quite muted, and hardly lasts.
The first time I tested Qom Chilom, there was also a whisper of heliotrope at the start. It combined with the raw almonds and an unexpected sudden pop of butteriness to create the distinct impression of an almond pastry. To be precise, almonds croissants covered with bright, fresh, very tart cherries, a dose of cherry cough drops, a rubbery smoke, and a lot of cedar. It was a really unusual combination, one that I’ve never encountered before, but it lasted only a few minutes at most.
Much more noticeable, however, is the vanilla which appeared consistently in both my tests less than 5 minutes into Qom Chilom’s development. At first, it is only a soft flicker of creaminess in the base, but it rise to the surface less than 20 minutes in and coats the rubberized, dry, cherried woods with smooth sweetness.
There is an oddly teasing aspect to Qom Chilom that I’ve noticed, the notes not only dance about coyly, going back and forth, but several of them also seem to morph and alter character every few minutes. At first, I thought I was merely imagining it, but, no, it happens repeatedly during the first 20 minutes and it also occurred during both my tests. One minute, the almonds smell fresh and raw, cool and liquidy. Almost the very next moment, the note is replaced by buttered croissants aux amandes. Then it vanishes entirely.
Same story with the latex. First, it smells like burnt tires; two minutes later, it is harsh black smoke; and five minutes after that, it is harsh smoke infused with creamy vanilla. Then, it seems to melt into the background, replaced by the medicinal, cherry cough drops. But, just when I think it’s gone, the actual rubber roars back, waves a black-clad arm hello, before swirling back into the background mists. Everything is constantly popping in and out, changing and twisting. Even the vanilla darts about like a teasing ghost on occasion. It is all very fascinating, maddening, enigmatic, intriguing, and a clear sign of Monsieur Lucas’ technical skill.
The only things which remain constant in the song and dance of the opening hour are the sour cherries and the woods. The oud never changes its party dress because it is consistently a tertiary note in the background on my skin. At most, it lends a subtle smokiness to the proceedings, but it also feels oddly clean at times. The cedar, however, is hardly a shy wallflower and seems increasingly hellbent on world domination. It suffuses Qom Chilom with a dryness that feels both aromatically green and a little bit dusty at times.
For all my fascination at the notes, one thing initially frustrated me quite a bit about Qom Chilom. The perfume is incredibly airy and sheer in feel. In fact, the first time I tried the scent, I applied 2 small sprays from my decant, began writing my notes, and then, 10 minutes later, frowned and hurriedly rushed to apply more. I had the oddest sensation that Qom Chilom was evaporating off my skin, even though that was a clearly illogical thought since the scent itself was pulsating out cherries and was quite potent up close. But there is a translucency to Qom Chilom’s opening phase that made the perfume feel just as elusive as its notes can be.
The sillage doesn’t help prevent any potential misimpressions of strength, either. Using 3 large sprays from an atomizer (or about 2 good sprays from an actual bottle), Qom Chilom projected just 2 inches at best above the skin. The fragrance dropped further at the end of the hour to hover just above the skin, and there it remained until the 3.5 hour mark when it turned into a skin scent. For my personal tastes, Qom Chilom is far too gauzy in weight and soft in sillage. Then again, as regular readers know, I like my perfume to be Wagnerian in potency, density, and forcefulness. By those standards, then, yes, Qom Chilom falls short as a very airy, generally soft, rather intimate scent.
Despite the sheerness, I soon noticed just how much of Qom Chilom’s opening phase is about contrasts, contrasts which almost verge on gender-bending. On the one hand, masculinity is represented by the oud, the black rubberized latex and the initially harsh smokiness, accompanied by Qom Chilom’s early medicinal, camphourous undertones and woody dryness.
Those aspects are juxtaposed next to the more feminine symbols: the soft vanilla; the delicate, comforting, almost maternal aspects of heliotrope’s sweetness; a growing, powerful creaminess; and the raspberry’s subtle jamminess that finally pops up after 45 minutes. Bridging the two sides is a ruby river of sour cherries. It all feels very modern, especially with the almost fetishistic rubber nuance, but there is also a subtle undercurrent of something ancient. To me, Qom Chilom feels like the olfactory expression of yin and yang; masculine and feminine; hard and soft; sweet and sour; dry and creamy. Honestly, I find it all quite brilliant on an intellectual level.
However, all of these layers and contrasts require some focus and concentration up close to detect. Thanks to the perfume’s sillage and sheerness issues, it wasn’t always easy for me to detect the subtle transitions and shifts. Being blunt, from a distance, Qom Chilom in the first hour initially smells like: a cherry cough drop; then cherry woods with some latex and vanilla cream, and, finally, at the end of the first hour, like a mix of red wine and a non-syrupy version of cherry cordial infused with cedar and a subtle trace of rubbery smokiness. I had to bring my nose quite close to my arm at times to notice the nuances, especially given how quickly some of the smaller notes melt into the background.
Everything starts to change at the start of the second hour. The early streaks of creaminess that ran through Qom Chilom’s base now rise up fully from the base and take over the whole scent, adding some necessary richness to counteract the early sheerness. Actually, the latter aspect feels fractionally better now, as if the perfume has deepened to go along with its new, and truly lovely, smoothness. At the same time, the cherry cough drop undertones pop up much less frequently, and are very muted when they do. Now, the fruit feels primarily like a deepened wine or tart cherry cordial. The oud feels even cleaner and smoother than before, while the vanilla has turned into a silky mousse. The patchouli is absolutely nonexistent on my skin, while the almonds are long gone and the jammy raspberry has largely melted into the base.
As a whole, the two main notes driving Qom Chilom at this point are the sour cherries and dry cedar. It all feels incredibly creamy and smooth, but simultaneously drier than some of these descriptions might lead you to believe. The subtle smokiness and rubber of the latex help to keep the vanilla and sweet raspberry in check. As for the cherries, they may be more like a dark, woody wine, but they still maintain a vestige of tartness which is very nice.
By the end of the 2nd hour, powder arrives on the scene, though it’s not the almond-vanilla heliotrope variety, nor the powdered makeup aspect of iris, either. It’s merely something lightly sweetened in nature. Tiny flickers of heliotrope dance in the background, while smokiness from the latex hovers about like a black mist. In the base, there is a subtle warmth and an ambered glow. As a whole, Qom Chilom is a bouquet of dry cedar and tart cherry wine, lightly dusted with a fine layer of delicious heliotrope, then flecked with touches of latex, vanilla, and oud, all resting upon a base with an undercurrent of sweetness and golden warmth.
About 3.5 hours into Qom Chilom’s development, the perfume subtly shifts yet again, and transitions into its third and final stage. Qom Chilom is now a skin scent on me, centered largely on powdered woodiness with cherries. The most noticeable and lovely aspect of the fragrance is the creamy texture which is almost like a note in its own right. I have read that teak is a very soft blond wood, so maybe that is the contributing factor, but the wood accord now feels as if it has been smoothed out into a fine, airy mousse. It no longer smells primarily of cedar. Instead, it now feels like a soft beigeness in a cocoon of abstract woodiness infused with dry vanilla and sweetened powder. Tiny bits of raspberry and cherry waft delicately at the corner, like garnish on a plate of woody cream. The oud is barely noticeable, but when it is, it feels very clean, almost sweet.
Qom Chilom turns softer and more abstract with every passing hour. By the end of the 5th hour, it is primarily woody creaminess with dryness and a dusting of barely sweetened powder. The other notes remain on the sidelines, popping up occasionally but Qom Chilom’s core essence is quite simple at this point. Near the middle of the 9th hour, the perfume feels like a mix of powdered woody dryness with baby softness, sweetness, and refined, clean warmth. In its final moments, Qom Chilom fades away as a slip of powdered, dry, sweet, woodiness.
For all my grumbling about Qom Chilom’s light weight and intimate projection, I give it full marks for longevity. In both tests, the perfume consistently lasted well over 12 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. Granted, it was a skin scent at the 3.5 hour mark, but Qom Chilom was always easy to detect up close if I brought my nose near my arm, up to the start of 9th hour.
Qom Chilom is too new for me to provide comparative reviews, and has no entry on Fragrantica at this time. In fact, at the time of this post, it’s not widely available outside of Harrods and Paris’ Printemps. That will change in a few days time when, I’ve been told, Germany’s First in Fragrance should receive several of the new SHL 777 fragrances, including the older 2013 perfume, O Hira. As noted at the start of this post, the complete SHL 777 line will be released in the U.S. in roughly 2 weeks time.
I don’t have American pricing information but, in Europe, Qom Chilom’s retail price is €235 for a 50 ml bottle of pure parfum. (And the bottle is stunning, in my opinion!) At today’s rate of exchange, €235 comes to about $326, but I know from prior experiences with European exclusives that the eventual U.S. price is always much less than the currency conversion amount. So, I estimate the perfume will probably be in the $290 range, though that is purely a personal guess.
Is that a little high for 50 ml? Yes, it is. Then again, Qom Chilom is pure parfum extrait at roughly 24% concentration, and the bottle is stunning with its red lacquer, a domed cap that I believe has been hand-done, and a semi-precious stone in the front. So, I’ll tell you what I’ve said repeatedly in the case of Roja Dove’s much more expensive (but similarly sized) 50 ml bottles of parfum extrait: it’s going to come down to a personal, subjective valuation as to whether you think the price is worth it.
All I can tell you is that Qom Chilom shows the high quality of its materials, has refinement, and demonstrates a very skillful touch. At the end of the day, the perfume doesn’t feel very much like me, but that is a matter of personal taste resulting from the notes. It has nothing to do with how good or interesting the perfume is — and Qom Chilom is both those things. It is also exceedingly original, in my opinion.
So, if you’re intrigued or tempted, keep an eye out for Qom Chilom in the upcoming days and weeks. Hopefully, it will transport you back to ancient Persia in a cloud of cherried ashes and wooded creaminess.
Disclosure: Perfume sample courtesy of Stéphane Humbert Lucas. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.