Close your eyes and imagine a landscape of burnt umber, red, green, and black where the ground is made of earthy patchouli and tobacco, the rivers run dark with burnt resins, green shrubs of vetiver and galbanum grow around sinewy trees made of black licorice, and the sky hangs heavy in a haze of terracotta red dust and amber. In the far distance, near marshes of wet, mushy amber, there is an ancient monastery. Its library is filled with ancient parchment paper made from pressed herbs and covered with the dust of ages. In its kitchens, the monks cook with dried fenugreek and curried immortelle, their aroma carrying on the wind to the rugged landscape outside. That is the world of Ladamo which takes the most organic aspects of Mother Earth, and puts it in a perfume bottle.
Ladamo is an eau de parfum from O’Driù (henceforth spelled without the accent as plain “O’Driu”), a small Italian niche company founded in 2010. All of its scents are created by Angelo Orazio Pregoni, and many are almost entirely all-natural, often having 96% fragrance oils or essentials, with very little synthetics at all. The high percentage of essentials is why O’Driu’s “eau de parfums” are really more like extraits, and have such density, intensity, and heaviness that they leave me blinking. We’re talking concentrated potency to rival any Profumum or Roja Dove parfums, and a few of the scents initially have great sillage, too.
Ladamo is one of those fragrances, and was originally released in 2011. On its website, O’Driu describes the perfume with much poetry, but not a lot of specifics:
15 essences, hand treated.
The world from the beginning, inside and outside us.
earth, roots, wind, magnolia, ginger
liquorice, sandalwood, tobacco, the hug of a woman
mimosa, juniper, lichens, a bath in the water.
That list obviously includes a lot of mystery notes, and omits 8 of the 15 essences. Anyone who smells Ladamo would know immediately that it contains a heaping amount of patchouli, a fact that was confirmed by a document sent to me by the lovely Anna at O’Driu. That PDF provides a few more details, though, as you shall soon see, I think several important elements have still been omitted:
Patchouli brun, Citron, Santal, Mousse arbre, Magnolia fleurs, Tabac, Carotte, Fenugrec, Cardamome, Gingembre, Amyris, Genievre baies, Mimosa, Galbanum
Brown patchouli, Lemon, Sandalwood, Lichen (Tree Moss), Magnolia, Tobacco, Carrot, Fenugreek, Cardamom, Ginger, Amyris, Juniper, Mimosa, and Galbanum.
Ladamo opens on my skin with a plethora of notes and sensations. There is: spicy patchouli with undertones of earthiness and leather; dark tobacco absolute; wet leaves; wet coffee grounds with dusty cardamom; herbal fenugreek that smells like a mix of dill and celery; galbanum greenness; minty vetiver; and tarry smokiness. It’s an incredibly complex mix that ranges simultaneously from earthy to spicy, smoky to dusty, herbal to leathered and resinous.
Most of all, the opening feels wet and dusty, rather at the same time, in fact. Something about Ladamo evokes the dampness of the forest floor, with wet soil, wet autumnal leaves, wet coffee grinds, wet patchouli, wet licorice, and wet, chewed-up tobacco. What Oriza L. Legrand‘s Chypre Mousse did for greenness, mushrooms, and the forest floor, Ladamo does for Nature’s brown-black elements, especially for the licorice, peaty earth, and spicy patchouli.
Yet, there is also a distinct papery dustiness that conjures up old books and parchment scrolls in an ancient monastery. A monastery where the monks keep a vast repository for dried, green herbs, and run a vibrant kitchen which is constantly emitting the smell of its fenugreek dishes. I’ve actually cooked quite a bit with the dried form of the plant, and it has a very distinct aroma that is something like a mix between dill and celery. If it helps you to place it, fenugreek was a big part of Amouage‘s Opus VII and Commes des Garcons Series Luxe: Patchouli, while also being a lesser part of Serge Lutens‘ Santal de Mysore. The herbal fenugreek aroma carries over to the papery dustiness (which I assume stems from the cardamom), and both create an extremely odd but utterly fascinating juxtaposition to the wet forest accords.
I’ve never smelled anything quite like it, but the two parallel threads work very well in creating a wholly organic, elemental feel to the fragrance. The perfume as a whole keeps drawing me back again and again for a sniff. There is something rather sensual about their darkness, and a touch of decadence in how Ladamo explores that side with over-the-top richness.
I’m also fascinated by the notes that aren’t listed anywhere in the official list. For example, the coffee grinds that I keep mentioning. It’s definitely there on my skin, along with a distinct whiff of bitter, roasted expresso beans. I suspect that some combination of notes is responsible, probably the licorice and patchouli. There are other mysterious elements as well. Ladamo really feels like it has some amber in it. To be precise, ambergris, as there is a marshy, wet, golden warmth that runs through the base. At first, it is subtle, but it slowly transforms the earthy, dusty patchouli by the end of the first hour, and then brings a general warmth to the perfume as a whole. Lastly, there is a definite whiff of tarry smokiness in Ladamo. Like the ambergris, it’s initially just a small flicker but it grows increasingly prominent by the middle of the third hour, almost as if either styrax resin, cade tar, or both had been used.
What I’m not enthused about is the fenugreek. Frankly, it rather ruins Ladamo for me. In one test, it was a noticeable element that smelled primarily like a dried, green herb, but it was a mere flicker in the sea of spicy patchouli and tobacco. Alas, the second time around, the fenugreek smelled almost entirely of celery, and was so strong that it practically blew me out of the water. It overshadowed the earthier and darker elements by far. I don’t mind a slight hint of celery in the background, but a vast amount of it front and center is not my cup of tea.
Part of the problem is the fact that Ladamo is one of those prismatic scents that occasionally seems rather monolithic but which, in actuality, radiates different facets each time you wear it. That makes it hard for me to describe the perfume in my usual way, because Ladamo simply doesn’t unfold in a consistent manner, and each wearing seems to highlight a different set of notes.
What was interesting to me is a neighbor’s experience who I let try some of the fragrance before he went to the gym. On him, as on me the first time around, Ladamo was heavily centered on tobacco with patchouli, but with very few dusty, earthy, or strongly herbal tonalities. He was astounded to smell all the celery radiating from my skin. There was not one whiff on him, then or later.
Just like the notes, Ladamo’s sillage seems to vary after its initially massive forcefulness. On my neighbor, the perfume positively radiated a mushroom cloud of strength around him, which he said seemed to actually grow as he worked out. Several feet, by his account. Yet, on my skin, Ladamo fluctuated. Using 2 moderate smears amounting to one spray from an actual bottle, the perfume initially wafted about 5 inches on my skin, but then sank down to about a constant 2 inches in radius from the start of the third hour onwards. However, the minute I went outside into the heat and away from the air-conditioning, Ladamo rebounded and… good God! The previously “soft” scent suddenly turned into a force field.
Throughout it all, Ladamo is massively dense, rich, and potent. Calling it an “eau de parfum” is like describing an Abrams tank as a mere “motorized vehicle.” It really doesn’t do it justice, or convey the sheer scale of things. Ladamo feels almost like an attar at times in terms of its concentrated nature. And it would all be very lovely except for that damned fenugreek.
Without it, I think large parts of Ladamo would be heavily centered on the beautiful patchouli and the tobacco absolute. In one of my tests, the fenugreek retreated to the sidelines after roughly 40 minutes, leaving a bouquet of tobacco, earthiness, rich spices, patchouli, abstract woodiness, and a hint of smokiness, all wrapped up in a very dark, ambered richness. The musky, vaguely moist earthiness makes the patchouli different than some greener, more camphorous, or minty fragrances in the genre. At the same time, the mushy nature of its amber separates Ladamo from such boozy patchouli scents as Jovoy‘s Psychedelique or Oriza‘s Horizon, while its dustiness isn’t of the cedar chest variety as it is in Les Nereides Patchouli Antique. Here, it is obviously cardamom dust more than the woody sort.
Of course, none of this applies when Ladamo decides to go full-on herbal and green. This version is absolutely not a patchouli scent in any real way. Apart from the endless fenugreek, it smells like there is a lot of vetiver, though no such ingredient is listed in the notes. There is also pungent galbanum, which is thankfully offset by a rich, plush moss note. Salty black licorice is interspersed throughout, along with a whisper of expresso coffee grinds and a touch of juniper. However, the tobacco, smoky tarriness, and patchouli are strongly muted this time around.
Taking their place is immortelle. I can’t explain it at all, but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind on this subject. It may not be mentioned in the notes, but I’m starting to suspect that Ladamo’s list is massively incomplete, because a lot of other people have also detected immortelle. On the plus side, the flower doesn’t smell like maple syrup here. Instead, it has a dry floralcy infused with herbaceous tonalities. On the down side, it carries a pronounced whiff of banana curry. When combined with the fenugreek’s celery, the end result is really a little much for me. In fact, the foodiness of it all made me sniff my arm with a perpetual grimace.
In both versions, Ladamo slowly transforms into a rootier, dirtier fragrance. Roughly 5 hours into its development, there is a profound sense of the earthy roots of an ancient, gnarled tree, roots that have been left exposed by the elements and covered with immortelle, black dirt, green moss, crushed leaves, and fenugreek celery. Light touches of black licorice, tobacco, patchouli, and burnt, tarry resins lurk in the background. The whole thing is blended seamlessly and to a degree that is rather astounding to me, given the complexity of the notes and their boldness. I may not like certain parts of the scent, but Mr. Pregoni has my deepest admiration for his obvious talent.
Ladamo doesn’t change significantly from this point forth. For the rest of its time on my skin, it’s merely a fluctuating, spherical orb that pulsates out a very elemental, organic scent. In its final moments, Ladamo is a dark, black blur of bitter, herbal earthiness with immortelle, spices, and abstract woodiness. All in all, the perfume consistently lasts over 13 hours on my perfume-eating skin, depending on the quantity that I use.
Something about Ladamo, its boldness, its originality, its density, and, yes, its sometimes difficult nature reminds me strongly of Josh Lobb‘s creations for Slumberhouse. There is the same sense of a primordial, green, organic ooze running through the fragrances of both houses, and I mean that description as a compliment. It’s not easy to create such enormously elemental, organic perfumes with so much untrammeled intensity and boldness, and both perfumers deserve a lot of respect.
Unfortunately, I cannot wear a number of Slumberhouse fragrances, and the same applies to some of O’Driu’s creations as well. Ladamo would definitely be one of the most wearable and appealing to me — but for the damned fenugreek celery and immortelle. It’s purely a personal issue, as I simply cannot bear their intensity on my skin, and I would live in perpetual dread of which version of Ladamo would show up. It’s a damn shame as the patchouli-tobacco scent is glorious.
My experiences with Ladamo closely parallel the accounts on Basenotes. There, the perfume has received mixed reviews, with 5 of the 9 reviews being positive. The remainder are split between 2 negative votes, and 2 neutral ones. In my opinion, the fenugreek celery is a part of the problem. Those for whom it was a profound presence disliked Ladamo, while people who experienced a less herbal or pungent version of the scent loved it. Well, I don’t blame them. I would too, if I hadn’t encountered something like what poor “Teardrop” describes:
Even before this fragrance gets anywhere near my skin, l get whacked in the head by an enormous stick of celery. Seriously, l have never experienced such huge projection just wafting from a vial! The noxious cloud is almost visible in the air. And just a couple of dabs is all that’s needed, this is really potent stuff. Along with the celery, the overall impression at first is bitter, dark & green, with perhaps some woods, a little tobacco, & a very faint sour fruit which must be the juniper berries. A little later, l get cardamom & galbanum; two notes l am not a big fan of. Then over the next hour, the immortelle becomes more & more dominant. For the rest of the duration, l get random whiffs of other, strange-but-familiar notes, but when l sniff up close, all l smell is immortelle. lt all lasts a phenomenal seventeen hours on me, only disappearing when l go for a shower the next morning.
l enjoy immortelle in other compositions, & Sables in particular, but this one has too many other notes that just don’t agree with me. l respect it for being incredibly powerful, complex & tenacious, but l cannot imagine myself ever wanting to wear it.
Even a poster who is normally a huge fan of the O’Driu line had some ambivalence about Ladamo. “Darvant” compares its general vibe to Mona di Orio‘s Cuir, but seems to have had issues with its pungent greenness and “bucolic” nature. His neutral review reads, in part, as follows:
The first agrestic blast under my nose is made by aromatic leaves, sour citrus, licorice, black peper and kurcuma with a background made of earthy patchouli and tobacco. Really pungent and scorbutic, it smells a bit like a sort of Les Nombres D’Or Cuir Mona di Orio without the leather and the smoky barbecue effect. Yes i detect the burnt sugar effect but with a lot of bitterness in its aftertaste. Something vaguely minty and botanic strikes my nose and probably is the anisy fenugreek (surrounded by the kurcuma) the responsible of this feel. In this phase i’m encompassed by a valzer of diverse olfactory impunts and smell a stark woody feel around but is the peppery licorice/ginger(kurcuma) earthy(patchouli-carrot)/spicy vibe to be starring and dominant. Throughout the development i detect this sort of rustic earthy-burnt-peppery-aromatic-herbal vibe produced by an association of piquant aromatic spices, fenugreek-licorice (i don’t know if the latter is effectively present), carrot, patchouli and ginger-juniper over a sandalwood foundation and effectively the faint floral whiff is a white drop in a dark turbulent ocean. The dry down is still rustic but slightly tamed by a softer mossy galbanum keeping steady the woodsy bucolic darkness in the air. Masculine and powerful in my opinion Ladamo is a less refined kind of scent compared with the other O’driu’ masterworks and is a far more naturalistic and countrified affair for a diffident, conservative kind of solitary man of the farms. I’m a bit more delicate and urban my friends.
The other reviews, however, are glowing, with one chap starting his assessment with “Holy Cow!”, a description that he says 2 other people also shared upon smelling Ladamo:
“Holy cow!”is precisely what I said this morning, when applying Ladamo for the first time (to the sides of my neck and the insides of my elbow) — I absolutely could not stop smelling myself on the commute to work, finding any excuse to bury my chin in my neck or raise my arms around my face, every possible discrete measure to get just one more whiff. “Holy cow!” is exactly what my coworker said immediately after smelling it. Miraculously, “Holy cow!” is also what my roommate said when I messaged him that he must experience this right away, and apparently even my dog went bonkers as soon as he picked up the scent… This fantastic fragrance is extremely exciting, and unique to say the least. It’s delicious. It’s a completely tantalizing mix of juniper and sandalwood at the base (on my skin) with ginger and cardamon and fenugreek (to my nose) sparkling around in the air. It’s amazingly simple, wonderfully direct and inviting, and feels completely organic but also absolutely masculine.
Lest you think all the admirers are men, Ladamo has one female Basenotes fan. For Scottish “Proustie,” Ladamo is the scent of Adam, the first man, who apparently smells largely of immortelle and terrain in her book:
Wow! Bosky, bosky, bosky.
The first man. The genesis of man. Don’t expect the smooth chested, lithe hipped, Adam of renaissance art. This Adam is the man, a he man. Grrrrrrr. This Adam walks on bare feet in a really bosky terrain. He is a hunter gatherer. In fact, to me this fragrance is more suggestive of a terrain than of a man.
Dense to begin, opening and drying over time. Black liquorice, a pronounced dry dusty immortelle, fenugreek, ginger, galbanum. A dry bushy terrain. Then wood and tobacco, dried grass, rich and dry. […]
Based on first impressions this reads as an immortelle driven fragrance. But if you take time, try on paper and skin, consider the concept, the notes, you will discover much more.
Honestly, I think these reviews are all correct. They all sum up different versions of a very prismatic scent, one largely centered on the organic elements and Mother Earth. Which version of Ladamo which will appear on your skin will depend on chemistry, but keep in mind as well that the perfume will vary in its facets from one wearing to the next.
I think fans of Slumberhouse‘s more foresty, earthy fragrances should check out Ladamo, along with anyone who likes truly dark fragrances that have a masculine bent. Don’t let my tale of fenugreek scare you off, unless you have issues with herbal scents, immortelle, or patchouli as a whole. Ladamo may not be for me, but I think it’s a fascinating fragrance whose dark complexity is brilliantly done.
Disclosure: My sample was courtesy of Luckyscent. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.