One of the best fragrances that I’ve tried this year is Siberian Musk by Areej Le Doré, which is the fragrance arm of Feel Oud‘s Russian Adam. A kaleidoscopic scent, it starts as a head-turning chypre with such a lavish greenness of spirit that it evoked not only fragrances like Chypre Palatin but, more importantly, vintage days long since lost. From there, it slowly transitions into a floral oriental with a strong kinship to the glorious vintage Bal à Versailles, a fruity floral vetiver, a smoky woody-oud oriental, and a sexy, cozy, inviting amber-musk that’s flecked by honeyed floral sweetness.
A central vein of deer musk runs throughout it all. While it varies in its animalics and intensity, it never rises to the level of some of the more famous (or infamous) animalic fragrances, like MAAI, Montecristo, or Muscs Koublai Khan on my skin. Some of the time, it simply evokes an expensive fur coat infused with vintage perfume, musky velvet, or even heated, musky, suede-like skin. But all of the time, it adds a very sensual and sexy touch to a glamorous, opulent, and sophisticated fragrance.
Siberian Musk is a pure parfum or extrait that was created by Russian Adam and released earlier this year in limited quantity, 100 numbered bottles to be exact. The fragrance is now sold out. On the one hand, that makes this review irrelevant except to the owners of one of those bottle. On the other, Russian Adam plans to make an extremely similar fragrance in the future with the same notes or category of raw materials, only from different regions or having a richer grade. Because he is meticulously honest, he refuses to call the future scent by the same name, “Siberian Musk,” because it will not be 100% identical.
The tentative name for the new fragrance is, for now, Siberian Musk Intense. It won’t necessarily be stronger or more “intense,” but it will be made with a higher caliber of the same materials, like Indian sandalwood in lieu of the Australian variety, a higher grade of oud, and possibly an orange blossom absolute that will be even richer than the one used here. So the new scent will be quite similar to the Siberian Musk that I describe below, but it will not be literally identical. Nevertheless, there will be enough overlap for this review to be relevant to the future Siberian Musk 2.0 version.
With that in mind, let’s proceed onto the original fragrance and its notes. On the Areej Le Doré website, Russian Adam writes that Siberian Musk is meant to transport you to “one of the purest, wildest and least known locations on earth: Siberia.” He describes a chilly morning “surrounded by tall, majestic pine trees blanketed with smoky snow,” the soft kiss of a musk deer, the aromatic sweetness of citruses to remind you of summer as well as
Bubbling, cool galbanum on charcoal, and frozen orange flower,
Smoking cinnamon stick,
Amber resin flowing down a wooden wall,
Dry, warm patchouli and clove in your tea.
Blue, freezing early morning, and you fully covered in Siberian aura.
The notes which form this “uniquely fresh, spicy, slightly animalic scent” are:
Top notes: Italian bergamot and lime, Indian mandarin, Siberian smoky pine. Freshly co-distilled hydrosol from exotic fruits and citruses.
Middle notes: a maceration made from legally obtained, wild Siberian deer musk grains, Moroccan orange blossom, Australian sandalwood, galbanum, cypress and a variety of spices.
Base notes: wild, green agarwood oils from Papua New Guinea, blue cypress absolute, patchouli, amber resin, clean Indian vetiver and Indian herbal musk attar.
The key thing for animal lovers, however, will be the final paragraph on that page that discusses the deer musk, its provenance, and its legality:
This Olfactory Composition contains animal product… a maceration derived from legally obtained, wild Siberian deer musk grains. These were sourced from a legal institution that buys only from registered hunters who have permission from the Russian government to hunt a regulated number of wild deer per season. Legal musk grains are available in very limited amounts and are typically used only for traditional medicines. This is one of the reasons why natural musk grains are no longer used in large scale perfumery.
Siberian Musk opens on my skin with the richest, most opulent chypre bouquet this side of a decades-old vintage extrait. It’s structured around four central elements, like walls for a house. The first one is a complex green accord that starts everything off with the very first note to hit my nose: lime. It smells as bitter and as real as if you’d just taken your nail through the rind of the citrus and been squirted with its aromatic juices and oil. Yet the bracing, brisk lime is merely the opening salvo within a larger greenness that is as verdant and plush as a blanket of oakmoss, stretching out as far as the eye can see.
That “moss” is an optical illusion, recreated via vetiver with a dash of galbanum, but it’s a perfect optical illusion at that, and its incredible thickness adds to the vintage feel of the fragrance. Like everything else in Siberian Musk, the greenness has layers within layers that slowly unfold, peeling back to reveal glimpses of supporting notes to add even further complexity, texture, and nuance to the primary chords. For example, the patchouli which quickly sprouts up between the “oakmoss,” smelling spicy and quietly earthy.
More importantly for me, however, it melds with the multifaceted greenness (and a lovely touch of cinnamon) in a way that calls to mind one of my favourite modern chypres, MDCI‘s Chypre Palatin. There, Bertrand Duchaufour used an expensive molecular extraction technique to get around IFRA/EU restrictions on oakmoss and to create the deepest, richest oakmoss note, which he then supplemented with beautifully smooth, spicy patchouli. I summed up Chypre Palatin as “baroque grandeur,” but the depth, complexity, opulence, and veritable thickness of the vintage-style, patchouli-flecked “oakmoss” recreation in Siberian Musk makes the accord in Chypre Palatin feel as light as gossamer gauze. Good lord, it’s beautiful, especially in combination with the flickers of cinnamon and the quiet streak of labdanum in the base below.
The other “walls” sprout up simultaneously, each a central element in Siberian Musk’s opening bouquet. The second is a cloud of airy freshness that hangs over the “oakmoss”-vetiver-galbanum-patchouli accord and it’s extremely unusual in aroma. It smells like a combination of aldehydic, woody, and faintly dusty aromas. It’s not “aldehydic” in the usual way because it’s a not soapy, waxy, or an artificial-smelling cleanness. Instead, it’s aldehydic in the sense of cool air and white light which have a quiet dusty woodiness about them. It’s clearly a side effect of one or all of the various woods (cedar, pine, cypress), but the astonishing thing is how the notes have recreated the sense of cool air more than actual, hardcore woodiness. Something about the way in which they’ve been distilled and/or blended has resulted in a faux-aldehydic aerated lift more than anything else. Yes, there is a definite, unmistakable woodiness and woody dustiness subsumed within, but the cumulative effect is somehow far more than the sum of its parts.
The third critical element accompanying the multifaceted greenness and the cool, aldehydic-woody aerated lift is a floral note that is sweet, clean, lightly honeyed, quietly citrusy, and very fruity. It’s unexpectedly hazy and indeterminate on my skin, smelling rosy far more than actual, unmistakably clear, distinct orange blossom, at least at this stage of the game. I’ve tried Siberian Musk three times, the first time blindly and without regard to its notes, and every time, the overarching impression I had of the floral note during the opening is something that resembles roses more than actual orange blossoms.
On the one hand, it seems to be a trick of the mind resulting from the way various notes interact together. On the other hand, Russian Adam admitted that the vetiver in Siberian Musk had been infused with roses, although he insisted that it was the tiniest amount and he didn’t think that it should be perceptible, particularly amidst all the orange blossom.
Well, it’s noticeable on my skin and to my nose, but I think the real difficulty in defining the opening floral bouquet for me is the abstract quality of the note on my skin and the fact that it’s initially more of a textural thing than a clear olfactory one. The primary impression is of velvety soft, velvety thick petals wafting a red-hued, almost raspberry-like fruitiness and lemony/bergamot freshness, instead of indolic orange blossom. There are suggestions of the latter when I applied a larger quantity of fragrance and spritzed instead of dabbed, but was it a clear, unquestionable “orange blossom” aroma in the early hours? No, not at all. What was noticeable after 30-40 minutes (regardless of the quantity that I applied) was a juicy mandarin note, but that’s quite different and separate from orange blossom floralcy. The main impression I had during the first few hours was of a largely generalized floral accord that smelled of rosy, slightly honeyed, berry-scented petals turned into thick rosy velvet.
It’s a beautiful aroma that is given extra shading and nuance through delicate amounts of other elements. Apart from the “mandarin orange” that appears 30-40 minutes in, the velvety petals are lightly coated with a quietly spicy, ambered, golden warmth. The latter is as abstract as the flowers because it never reads as a distinct labdanum, ambergris, cinnamon, or clove mix. It’s simply a gentle aura, a hazy warmth that is painted in delicate brushstrokes to underscore the sense of petals that are as thick and as warm as velvet.
The fourth and final “wall” in Siberian Musk’s house is the deer musk itself. I think it’s largely responsible for the fragrance having such a tactile, textural quality to it. The accord smells exactly like the Tonkin deer glands or pouches that I encountered in AbdesSalaam Attar’s week-long perfume course: earthy, hairy, furry, dark, and warm muskiness.
The unusual thing about Siberian Musk is how well it incorporates the geographic visuals that I associate with the note: a deer dropping its musk grains or pellets in a mound of dry earth in the middle of a nook of trees. For me, this earthy, woody, faintly dusty aroma is inextricably tied up with the deer gland’s more central aroma of fur and actual muskiness. In fact, in the earliest moments of Siberian Musk, I’d say the note is centered on these other things instead of anything remotely. Later, towards the end of the first hour, the note begins to bear the suggestion of animal fur and a ghostly rustle of something nebulously urinous, similar to civet, but, for most of Siberian Musk’s first 90 minutes on my skin, those things are really more like an overall aura or rough suggestions. For most of that time, the deer musk smells primarily of dark, faintly earthy, vaguely animal-like, heated muskiness on my skin, a muskiness which has an almost a tactile quality in its velvety richness.
For me, the cumulative effect of these four “walls” and the many bricks used to construct them is a world away from the great Siberian outdoors set forth in the fragrance’s official description. For me, the layers of fragrantly bitter citruses, recreated vintage-style “oakmoss,” sweetly fruited florals, dusty woods, earthiness, warm spices, chilly aldehydic/aerated freshness, and faintly animalic brown-gold muskiness end up recreating the scent of my mother’s fur coat — both the actual fur outside and her powerful, heavy, opulent vintage fragrances whose scent permeated its inner lining, wafting out to meld with the fur, sometimes blanketing it, sometimes quite separate from the smell of fur itself.
It’s a bouquet that is “vintage” in feel, partly because one doesn’t commonly encounter such perfume combinations and aromas these days, and partly because of Siberian Musk’s heaviness in body and weight. This is a fragrance with the heft and density of decades-old, vintage Guerlain chypre extraits, if one applied a massive amount via spraying instead of a few discreet dabs. It also feels like an attar oil which has been conveniently turned into a sprayable liquid, which is actually exactly what Siberian Musk is.
I think someone who is accustomed to the “clean, fresh” genre or the completely minimalistic scents that purport to be “fragrances” these days (koff-Jean-Claude Ellena-koff) would probably reel back from Siberian Musk as though they’d been hit by a steam train. They would undoubtedly find it to be, by their modern standards, quite old-fashioned in both its aromas and its heft. For me, however, I think it has a classicism which is timeless and an opulence that practically verges on excess. I see the latter as an absolutely glorious thing. This is no namby-pamby fragrance that is so anemic that it is practically bloodless nor an Ellena-style olfactory vapor that is so minimalistic it might as well be bottled air. This is a fragrance that not only wraps you in the most luxurious furs (guilt free), but then douses you with a truly vintage-style chypre bouquet. It’s meat and potatoes perfumery instead of Ellena-style flavoured water. And I say thank god for that.
It’s extremely difficult to describe the development of the two Areej Le Doré fragrances that I’ve tested thus (Siberian Musk and Ottoman Empire, which will be the next review), and the reasons are the same in both cases. First, the bouquet is so dense that it’s like a wall of scent where every individual “brick” or accord flows into another. It’s not easy at times to know where one note begins and another ends. A number of the raw materials share similar olfactory characteristics like, for example, smokiness, fruitiness, or muskiness. On top of that, they’re so dense or rich and blended so seamlessly that the fragrance ends up feeling like a handful of overlapping, overarching accords.
Second, both fragrances have monumental, staggering longevity on my skin — more than 24 hours with a tiny dabbed amount and about 36 hours with a few spritzes when I finally had to wash it off — and, yes, there are certain stages which develop within that time for each, but it sometimes takes eons for the scent to transition from one to the next. A few stages lasted more than 8 hours in length!
When you combine these two factors together, the result is a fragrance that can seem quite linear at times, even perhaps a little simplistic in its “wall of scent” because the changes are really subtle ones of degree, mere shifts in the prominence, nuances, or even the undertones of some of the notes. The moves are often so incremental and so glacial in pace that it takes a while before you realise that Siberian Musk (or Ottoman Empire) has suddenly turned into something quite different than it once was. I suppose you can best describe the Areej Le Doré fragrances as Tolstoy novels, composed of chapters that are extremely long in length themselves. I’ll do my best to dissect the chapters, but keep in mind that this is a kaleidoscopic fragrance.
In the case of Siberian Musk, the first chapter is essentially what I’ve described above, a fur coat imbued with: vintage chypre parfum; aldehydic-lime-woody freshness; honeyed fruity florals; vetiver greenness; dusty woodiness; softly spiced patchouli layered with labdanum amber resin; and deer musk in all its many facets, from dark musk pellets to the deer’s earthy/woody environment, musked velvet, dark warmth, and the deer’s own fur. About 75 to 90 minutes in, a quiet streak of something urinous (similar to civet in its aroma) begins to run through the fur and the base.
At the end of the 2nd hour and the start of the 3rd, the streak is no longer quiet but an ingrained part of the fur and musky velvet. Even so, it’s a carefully modulated touch that is nowhere near the force, intensity, or sharpness of the urinous civet/hyraceum accord in either Bogue‘s MAAI or Masque Milano‘s Montecristo. There is also no overlap with Papillon‘s Salome which has a similar civet-hyraceum accord but went further by adding a powerful cumin element to recreate sex/crotch/body aromas. At this point, it’s more like a soft version of the fur/musk/skin aromas in the drydown of Serge Lutens‘ Muscs Koublai Khan (“MKK”). To repeat, it’s the milder scent of MKK’s drydown, not the hardcore one that alarms or terrifies some people in the early stages.
Even when Siberian Musk grows more overtly animalic and urinous during the 4th hour, it’s still nowhere close to the levels I experienced in Maai, Montecristo, or Salome. What it actually reminds me of the most is a quieter version of the note in vintage Bal à Versailles. I know a number of you are huge fans of that legendary fragrance, so you’ll understand when I say that the urinous underpinning to Siberian Musk at this stage is a bit stronger than the quiet civet-castoreum-musk animalic accord in BaV eau de toilette but not as strong as the hardcore, powerful one in the richer versions like the Parfum de Toilette (aka, eau de parfum) or the extrait. I recently lucked out by finding a huge 9 oz bottle of the 1960s Parfum de Toilette version which had concentrated down over the decades into an incredibly potent scent with the force of an attar. It is fur, fur, fur galore, dripping with as much urinous civet as it does orange blossom, roses, jasmine, cinnamon, labdanum, and other spicy, balsamic resins. It’s as rich as my BaV extrait and has the same bouquet, but it is significantly more powerful in both sillage and force. Siberian Musk’s 4th to 6th hours strongly resemble this version of Bal a Versailles on me, except its animalics are much milder. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not weak or imperceptible, but they’re milder, comparatively speaking.
The gradual rise in animalics marks the slow transition to Siberian Musk’s second main stage which starts towards the end of the 6th hour and lasts 7 or 8 hours. In essence, the focus of the bouquet suddenly changes from the opening “chypre enveloped within a fur coat” to “Bal a Versailles within a fur coat” to, now, at the start of the 7th hour, a fruity floral vetiver set against a furry, musky, smoky, and woody backdrop. It’s a complete change in the focus and the balance of notes.
Yet, there are still a few similarities in feel to Bal à Versailles because the little nub at the heart of the bouquet is an indolic, lush white floralcy centered on orange blossoms coated in a mixture of sweet and tangy citrus fruits, honeyed floral sweetness, and sticky labdanum that smells of toffee. Cinnamon is sprinkled lightly on top, and then the whole thing is encased in a powerful mossy-vetiver accord. The latter is streaked with green woodiness that usually smells of cedar but, once in a while, smells either like cypress or a green, leather-flecked oud instead. (I can’t say that I ever detected pine in any distinct, clear, prominent way on my skin in any of my tests.)
The fur and animalics remain, but they no longer drape themselves around the orange blossom as they did only a few hours before and they no longer feel like one of the lead notes. Instead, the musk animalics keep moving around, veering between: being a mere aura in the background; being something a little like the furry bottom to the bouquet; or being engulfed within the vetiver itself. Interestingly, the musk and fur aromas are strongest when I smell Siberian Musk in the air from a distance. Up close, the vetiver and citrus fruits are much more central, and the musk is a mere aura subsumed within.
All of it is difficult to dissect, not only for the reasons that I mentioned earlier about the construction of the fragrance, but also because everything other than the vetiver is growing quite hazy. From the 8th hour until roughly the 16th one, the orange blossom feels quite abstract, like mere indolic white florals with honeyed sweetness. Yes, there is an orange fruitiness to it, but, bear in mind that this is a fragrance which also has a separate mandarin note added in. The woods feel similarly blurry except for their greenness and smokiness, either of which could come from the vetiver. It’s extremely difficult to figure out the specifics of what is going on because everything is married together, resulting in what feels like two general overarching accords and a slew of ancillary elements flickering hazily within.
By the 9th hour, the only note that I can make out with crystal clear clarity is the thick, velvet blanket of vetiver greenness. It’s laced with fluctuating, varying quantities of woody smoke, citrusy sweetness, animalic musk, and white floralcy. If the last four are now secondary accords, everything else is tertiary: the spice mix, amber resins, and patchouli. If I had to break down the notes, I’d estimate Siberian Musk was now roughly:
- 40% smoky, mossy, plush vetiver;
- 15% fruitiness dominated primarily by orange;
- 15% fruited, sweet, honeyed florals;
- 15% smoky woods;
- 10% dark musk, fur, and animalics; and
- 5% everything else (cinnamon, patchouli, resins, in that order of prominence).
The musk returns to central stage as a powerful primary note in Siberian Musk’s short third stage which begins roughly around the 13th hour. Essentially, there is another shift in focus and in the balance of notes. Siberian Musk moves away from vetiver laced with fruits and florals to a woodier scent which is centered primarily on a combination of smoky vetiver and smoky woods (sandalwood, oud, and cedar) enveloped within a thick pelt of fur that is warm, quietly urinous, animalic, and musky. It bears undercurrents of warm, musky, heated skin. In the background, the citrus fruits and fruity floralcy dart about like little fireflies while an increasingly dark, balsamic, toffee’d labdanum runs through the base, flecked with spicy patchouli. The cumulative effect feels like a mash-up of the musk in the late stages of Muscs Koublai Khan with the vetiver-heavy parts of Aeon 001, except this has smoky cedar, smoky oud, and a whiff of orange blossom in lieu of tuberose.
Siberian Musk’s 4th stage begins roughly around the 16th hour on my skin, and the focus shifts once again. The central, driving chord is a musk-amber accord, but what is striking is feel of its notes: amber with the quality of velvet; fur that is practically tactile in its warm plushness; and muskiness that feels like satiny heated skin. Two things frame the musk-amber, like ladies in waiting hovering around a queen on her throne. The first is a strong streak of lush, ripe, heavy orange blossom. The latter has gradually, inch by inch, reasserted itself, smelling crystal clear again instead of merely being an abstract white floralcy. But it waxes and wanes in strength, ebbing and flowing over the other notes and never really detracting from the central musk-amber bouquet. The second is sandalwood which as creamy as butter in texture. I suspect it plays a role in the textural plushness of the scent and is a big reason why the musk wafts a satiny skin quality in addition to its other facets.
The other notes from the earlier stages linger to various degrees. The vetiver has basically become a ghost in the background, noticeable mostly as a soft smokiness instead of actual vetiver or mossiness. The oud is slightly stronger but not significantly so, and it smells mostly like a woody form of muskiness with a quiet smokiness and a sliver of leatheriness buried within. But both the vetiver and the oud are faint rustlings that I detect mainly when I sniff my arm up close and really concentrate; from afar, they’re occasional rustlings that appear mostly in indirect form in terms of wisps they give off — different types of smoke, musk, and darkness — which add shadows to both the musk-amber bouquet and to its sandalwood-orange blossom ladies in waiting.
Siberian Musk’s 5th stage, the drydown, is a further evolution of this purely oriental accord, and it’s also the point at which the fragrance comes closest to resembling the other famous animalic fragrances that I’ve mentioned — like MAAI and Salome — but only in so far as their drydowns. I’m not talking about their hardcore urinous or cumin and sex-laden openings. No, not remotely. This is the suede-like, golden finish of those fragrances that I can only describe as “nuzzalicious,” completely addictive, and endlessly cozy. It’s unquestionably my favourite part of Siberian Musk which, for all its beauty and grandeur, actually isn’t my favourite Areej Le Doré creation. (That would be Ottoman Empire, but solely because I instinctively respond far more to floral orientals on a personal level than to chypres or even chypre-orientals.) But both fragrances have a similar sort of drydown, and man, is it sexy. Sexy as hell.
In the case of Siberian Musk, the drydown begins around the 25th hour and lasts for hours — a statement which I realize sounds a bit insane in light of the time frames for most modern fragrances, and probably even more so after the evanescent, sheer Japanese scents that I covered last time. But a few spritzes from my little Siberian Musk atomizer really does result in this crazy longevity. Even a couple of light dabs of the wetted atomiser tube within the bottle gave me 16+ hours of scent in one test.Every part of Siberian Musk has something beautiful or appealing about it, but the drydown is special. It’s the completely sexy aroma of bronzed skin, heated after a bath, warmed by candlelight, then coated in a luxurious oil made predominantly of floral honey, toffee’d labdanum amber, soft spices, and dark musk. The latter is a complex, multi-faceted aroma that feels and smells like suede, but a suede laced with the softest, gentlest vapors which are simultaneously: creamy, spicy, sweet, fresh, faintly fruity, sandalwood-buttery, smoky, woody, and just a little bit furry. While the tertiary notes ripple delicately in the background, what’s front and center for me is “skin” that has the plushness of velvet, satin, and suede, cocooned in a delicately spiced ambered warmth and musky, honeyed golden sweetness. All of it is gorgeous, all of it turns my head, and all of it makes me want to bury my nose in my arm for hours.
Siberian Musk remains this way for a considerable time, simply growing creamier, more buttery, and silkier as it progresses. In its final hours, all that’s left is a glow of candlelight from melted, honeyed amber with a creamy, faintly skin-like, faintly musky textural softness to it. That scent was still clinging to my skin at the 36th hour when I finally had to wash the remnants off simply so that I could continue with my testing schedule. That was with several spritzes from my little atomizer sample amounting to a bit more than 1 massive spray from an actual bottle or under 2 small ones. (My little atomizer often squirted a few dribbling drops more than a light spritz, or sometimes a fine mist that seemed to go in the air more but my actual arm, so it was harder for me to make quantity comparisons than usual.) But even with a tiny amount that was merely dabbed on, perhaps two small drops worth, Siberian Musk had 16-24+ longevity.
The sillage and longevity were initially as low as you’d get with an attar (albeit a very strong, powerful attar), but everything ballooned in size as the rich natural oils melted and expanded on the skin. With a few tiny dabs of a wetted atomizer stick or about 2 drops worth, the fragrance opened with about 1.5 to 2 inches of projection, and about 3 inches of sillage. The numbers rose after 30-40 minutes to about 3 inches and 6 inches, respectively, and they stayed that way until the end of the 6th hour when the sillage dropped to about 2-3 inches again. Yet, Siberian Musk remains potent and sends out strong, unmistakable trails all around me until roughly the 8th hour which is when the projection hovers just above the skin and when the sillage turns more discreet unless I move my arms. But it’s not until the 12th hour that Siberian Musk becomes a skin scent. Even then, it remained as a light glaze and coating on the skin in the 24th hour when I finally succumbed to the need for a shower.
With a larger quantity (the equivalent of 2 small sprays from a bottle or just under), the projection was slightly higher above the skin, but the main difference was that there was a huge spike in the sillage and longevity. The opening scent trail was about 5-6 inches but grew after an hour into an engulfing powerhouse cloud with about 10-12 inches in radius. It took a long, long time to dissipate. Siberian Musk ceased to waft a powerful trail during the 11th hour, but was still immensely potent, thick, and heavy up close. It only turned into a true skin scent during the 16th hour but, even so, I had no difficulty in detecting if I brought my nose near to my arm. I only had to put my nose right on my skin after the 22nd hour. Siberian Musk kept chugging away, even if it was the merely glaze on the skin. It showed absolutely no signs of dissipation as the hours passed, so I kept on going in my third test without an actual shower for as long as I could in order to see what crazy numbers would ensue. Lo’ and behold, Siberian Musk was still there in the 36th hour when I finally decided that it was too hot outside to use a sponge to wash everywhere but my right forearm and, dammit, I wanted a cold shower, no matter what it did to my numbers or attempt at faux-scientific quantification.
OTHER OPINIONS, AVAILABILITY, SAMPLES, CONCLUSIONS, & A FINAL WORD ON “ANIMALICS” IN PERFUMERY:
This has been a very long scent analysis, filled with endless details, so it’s a bit of a relief that I don’t have to provide comparative reviews to guide potential buyers. The scent is sold out, and most of the people who have bought it have undoubtedly read the long, detailed Basenotes Official Areej Le Doré discussion thread or posted one of the 5 reviews on Fragrantica thus far. Regardless of site, the reviews skew overwhelmingly, by a vast margin, towards the positive side with the majority being adoring accolades. Two of the comments on Fragrantica call Siberian Musk: “The best perfume world has seen in ages. Period.“; and “This is the fragrance Roja Dove would probably kill to have in his stable. Exclusive to Harrods of course, and priced upwards of $5,000. Sorry Roja, it’s already sold out.”
Unfortunately, yes, it is sold out, although you can always order whatever remaining stock is available at Surrender to Chance, the American decanting service which ships worldwide. There, prices start at $5.99 for a 1/4 ml vial and go up to $112.01 for a 5 ml glass spray. That’s quite a hike from retail value of $350 for ten times more product, 50 ml in total, but Surrender to Chance is your only option until Russian Adam launches his 2.0 version. Once the 100 full bottles sold out, the Areej Le Dore Sample Sets sold out not long after, and I don’t know where else you can find the fragrance even to test in a small way. I have never seen Areej Le Dore on eBay, and there was dead silence to a recent plea on Basenotes to buy any quantity possible, no matter how small.
Some of you will undoubtedly be asking “what’s the point to even ordering a decant from STC?” It’s a fair question. First, 5 ml of Siberian Musk or even 1 ml of Siberian Musk goes a long, long, long way. You can get a long, rich, and opulent aroma that lasts for ages from only a few drops or from a few light, swipes of the sample atomizer; that scent is attar-strength; and it has the luxurious quality of the very best, most expensive vintage extraits if they were concentrated down after 60, 70, or 80 years.
Second, even the smallest 1/4 ml sample of Siberian Musk would give you an idea of whether or not to buy Version 2.0 which is bound to sell out even more quickly than this one did given the plans to make it even richer and higher quality than the original. No, “Siberian Musk Intense” won’t be identical, but it will be close enough. So it might be worth your while to test the original if you can, if you can buy a sample before they’re sold out on STC, because it will give you an idea as to whether or not you should jump on the follow-up version.
That suggestion, however, comes with some caveats which should be abundantly obvious after this review: if you love modern, light, fresh, clean, airy, and minimalistic fragrances, don’t bother; if you don’t have even the slightest tolerance for animalics of any kind, don’t bother; and if you don’t like heavy chypres, chypre-orientals, animalic musks, any combination thereof, or any of the fragrances named here, don’t bother.
By the same token, this is a fragrance that you must try if you are an ardent fan of: (1) the richest, muskiest Bal à Versailles; (2) really vintage Mitsouko extrait (namely, the 1930s to 1950s version which had its famous peach accord sublimated for much of the opening 6 hours within a musky oakmoss cloud that had furry, leathery, skin-like, smoky, and resinous subtexts); and/or (3) any of the modern musk or animalic fragrances cited herein (MAAI, MKK, Montecristo, or Salome).
On a separate but slightly related note, I don’t think that Siberian Musk is “skanky” in the way that word is frequently employed in reviews today, at least not on my skin. It’s not raunchy, redolent of stale unwashed body aromas, dirty crusted panties, dirty diapers, sweaty balls, or a man’s crotch after sex. There is no barnyard scent of poo or hot, steaming cow turds. Nor does it have the pungent ripeness of animal leather hides being cured in the hot, humid sun, or an unwashed cat litter box filled with ammonia pee. The word “animalic” in perfumery can encompass each of these things, or some combination thereof. I think it’s essential to be as precise as one can be in describing the exact, particular sort of “animalic” aroma in question because there are so many different sorts, all lumped under the rough, broad, overarching umbrella of “animalic” or “skanky.”
That is a big reason why I’ve spent so long in the specifics of the notes and on their every nuance as it appears on my skin. If people are not precise or careful enough, it can create misleading impressions. To one person, “animalic” in the context of a fragrance with oud means barnyard cow s**t. To another person, “animalic” in the context of a vintage chypre, chypre-oriental, or animalic musk could be a wonderfully sexy scent, while a third person might perceive it to be anything from dirty panties to ripe skin musk, fur and leather, sweaty armpits, or even genitalia (men’s or women’s, at various stages of ripeness, sweat, urinousness, or sexuality).
I’ve tried my best to articulate the precise and specific nature, quality, character, and feel of the animalics in Siberian Musk on my skin, but please try to understand that we all interpret scent through a highly personal filter and by different baseline standards.
On top of that, we have to account for different skin chemistry that may amplify, mute, or transform the notes, both in their subtext and in their central essence. In short, what may appear on my skin and by my standards as “musky fur” or “fur laced with civet-like urinousness” may read very differently to you, on your skin, by your standards. I have a high tolerance for animalics, but my skin is also a factor in how things come across. Yours will be, too.
So, I cannot guarantee 100% that the deer musk will never feel as intense or urinous as the civet-hyraceum-castoreum combo in MAAI or Montecristo — to your nose, by your definitions, or on your skin — just as I cannot swear that the oud will never come across as “barnyard” — again, to your nose, by your baseline definitions, and on your skin. All I can tell you is Siberian Musk never reached those levels on my skin, and that the animalics in really old, extra concentrated, 1960s-version Bal à Versailles extrait/PDT were a much closer comparison on me.
I thought Siberian Musk was a magnificent fragrance, but I loved Ottoman Empire even more. That one is not sold out, and it will be the subject of the next review. (If you’re curious and want to get a head-start on reading about it, you can look it up on the Areej Le Doré website.) See you next time!
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of Russian Adam. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.