Inverno Russo, the fourth and final new release from Areej Le Doré, is intended to be a poetic interpretation of a Russian winter. As Russian Adam explains on his website, it’s a time where the land displays “absolute, calm, white, quiet beauty.” To that end, the new extrait de parfum is described as being: “white and heavy;” “sweet and hot;” “fluffy and animalic;” “dreamy,” “calm,” and “awakening.”
Inverno Russo is a pure parfum. Based on how it acted on my skin, I would initially categorize it as a floral woody musk in genre before it eventually transitions into a pure musk with softly animalic undertones. Its note list is:
Top notes: rose alba otto and white pepper absolute extracted by Russian Adam
Heart notes: peach blossom and osmanthus co-absolute extracted by Russian Adam, white frankincense distilled by Russian Adam, white gardenia, white champaka, clove, cardamom, Indian sandalwood, tonka bean absolute, tincture of legally obtained, wild Siberian Musk pod and synthetic civet
Base notes: rare, wild Hainan agarwood oil, aged over 5 years; Indian oud oil, white Indonesian gaharu boya [Indonesian white oud], betel leaf, Virginian cedarwood and benzoin.
Inverno Russo opens on my skin with a bouquet of syrupy, sweet white florals strewn with a tiny handful of delicate roses, then drenched in musk that is sweet, clean, fluffy, white, sugary, and laden with powdered cocoa. The roses are pale, fresh, sweet, and soft, but very nebulous in feel. The other flowers are an indeterminate blur beyond their immensely syrupy whiteness, although, once in a blue moon, they waft a hint of abstract fruitiness. On their own, there is something plastic-y about their aroma, and that impression is accentuated even further when combined with the white, almost artificial-smelling, heavily sugared, clean musk and its underlayer of powdered cocoa. The net effect reminds me of new plastic dolls and pink Bazooka bubble gum.
I assume that the cocoa powder stems from one of the three ouds, but other parts leave me stumped. I can’t figure out what is triggering such an immense wave of white sugar. The cleanness of the musk is also a surprise. It doesn’t smell like the sort of synthetic white musk that one finds in mainstream fragrances and, thankfully, it never smells like laundry detergent, but it’s definitely not the dark or animalic sort which has characterized so many of the Areej fragrances. Whatever the source, I found the combination of clean musk and sugar to be difficult. I don’t like either one individually, but sugared musk is extremely high on my “no-go” list of aromas. When the powdered chocolate and the Bazooka-like, bubblegum, white floral plasticity are added on top, the end result is something that made me feel queasy and nauseated on each of the four occasions that I tested the fragrance.
Other notes quickly follow. A diffuse, sheer veil of generalized spiciness hangs over the flowers. Clean, soft, pale woods run under them, smelling half oud-ish, half like sandalwood. Frankincense arrives to add a clean incense note which is quietly powdered. It quickly melds with the sandalwood and white florals to create an accord that smells just like nag champa. (“Nag champa” is a fragrance or incense created from sandalwood and florals, usually frangipani but sometimes champaca. Spices, patchouli, musk, and/or amber resins are occasionally included as well.) The incense’s underpinning of soft powderiness is further accentuated by a touch of sweet, fluffy tonka.
The sum-total effect of all these notes turns Inverno Russo’s opening bouquet into a clean, fluffy, lightly powdered but immensely sweet and sugared floral woody musk, laced with nag champa-style incense, hot cocoa, and white woods.
Inverno Russo changes as it develops. 40-45 minutes in, it turns even more chocolate-y, sugary, and sweet. The incense increases too, smelling even more like spiced nag champa than before. Together, they cut through much of the cleanness of the musk. By the end of the first hour, the bouquet is almost as smoky as it is candied and gourmet.
Roughly 75 minutes in, the note pyramid flips over and Inverno Russo’s second stage begins. The ouds come out on top, while the florals disperse, turning into a thin, small, and wholly abstract layer in the base. The spices follow them there as well. Essentially, Inverno Russo is now a smoky, sweet, and chocolate-y bouquet of nag champa incense, candied musk, and soft, pale woods, all lying atop a thin layer of abstract florals and abstract spices. The nag champa is nice, but I’m afraid the combination of sugary sweet musk and hot chocolate continues to repel me.
The main triad of notes continues to dominate Inverno Russo over the next few hours without any significant change. Roughly 2 hours in, a tiny ripple of civet appears in the base, although it’s only detectable at this point if I smell my arm up close. 2.5 hours in, the oud turns more leathery and begins to resemble the Hindi or Hainan varieties of agarwood more than the clean, white Gaharu sort. By the third hour, Inverno Russo is as smoky as it is sweet. At times, the fragrance feels like a simple duet of nag champa incense and smoky oud, with the third leg of the triad — the musk — acting merely as a ribbon or connective tissue between them. It remains overly sweet, but it’s darker now and, once in a blue moon, tiny flickers of civet briefly peek out. The florals, however, are so inconsequential on my skin at this point that they might as well not exist. I can no longer detect anything except an elusive, ghostly, vaguely floral syrupness buried deep in the “nag champa.” There are no roses at all.
The Hindi and Hainan ouds gradually begin to assert themselves, changing the character and feel of the fragrance. 3.5 hours in, the musk levels begin to rise; 4 hours in, so do the smoke and spice levels. There is no longer even a small vestige of cleanness to the musk. Instead, it’s gaining a quiet underpinning of oud animalics. The fragrance continues to be very sugary, too much so for my personal tastes but, on the positive side, the oud’s cloying, nauseating, earthy hot chocolate has finally disappeared. When taken as a whole, Inverno Russo now embodies Russian Adam’s description of being “sweet and hot.” A more detailed characterization would be to call it a sweet, spicy, smoky, and minimally animalic woody dark musk layered with nag champa incense and oud-ish leathery darkness, while civet and traces of abstract, syrupy florals are buried deep, deep within.
Inverno Russo turns simpler at the end of the 6th hour and start of the 7th which is when the fragrance begins its transition to its drydown stage. The oud’s animalic muskiness grows, its smoke recedes, and its leather disappears. The nag champa incense becomes a quiet sideline note, while small wisps of rose begin to curl up from the base. Midway during the 8th hour, Inverno Russo’s new stage kicks off when the musk doubles, becoming the central focus of the scent, and the roses rise up fully from the base. I should stress, however, that they’re much softer, lighter, quieter, and more diffuse than the floral component in Siberian Musk ever was on my skin. The civet follows the roses. At the same time, Inverno Russo finally loses its candied quality, and there is a better modulated amount of sweetness.
The net result is a bouquet that is primarily dark, velvety, civet-y, animalic musk, laced with thin veins of sheer, petal-soft roses and woods that are smoky, spicy, and musky. Everything except for the musk feels quiet, abstract — almost minimal and tangential, in fact. The woods are abstract and not particularly oud-ish on my skin; they could be smoky cedar or spicy sandalwood just as much as actual oud. The civet isn’t really urinous; it feels more like a quiet, simple, buzzing muskiness. The roses are merely a ribbon that weaves quietly under the surface.
As for the animalics, I was surprised by how mild and restrained they are on my skin. There is nothing furry about Inverno Russo on my skin, nothing suggesting raw animal hides, and not even a microscopic whiff of the rank goats, Gorgonzola blue cheese, fecal, or barnyard aromas which I had expected upon seeing the double whammy of both Hindi and Hainan agarwood in the note list together. Chinese agarwood has most of the olfactory characteristics that make me loathe Hindi oud, so I had braced myself for something powerfully skanky, fecal, cheesy, tarry, goaty, and ferociously animalic but, no, it never happened. Not on my skin, though you should know that the oud did turn fecal on one reader and strongly animalic on a second.
Another surprise for me was the fact that the musk in Inverno Russo is not even half as musky, dense, opaque, or rich as the one in Siberian Musk. Not only is the musk here a mere fraction of the note in Siberian Musk but, in fact, nothing here smells of a Tonkin deer pouch or deer grains on my skin at all. Clearly, only the tiniest amount has been used, and I’m guessing that Russian Adam relied primarily on the two ouds to create the musk.
For me, the most noticeable thing about both the note and, indeed, the fragrance as a whole during the drydown is its velvety and suede-like texture. I suspect that some or most of that comes from the third oud; Adam told me he used Gaharu because it has a suede-like character, and it really shows here.
Inverno Russo’s drydown begins late in the 8th hour and continues for a considerable amount of time without any change except to turn softer, less floral, more abstract, and even more velvety. At the start of the 12th hour, the velvety musk has soft, quiet slivers of civet, sweetness, and woodiness, but only a passing whisper of roses. By the 14th hour, there is only velvet with a vestige of sweetness. Inverno Russo remains that way until it finally dies away.
Inverno Russo had fair projection, initially good sillage, and very good longevity on my skin. Using several spritzes equal to 2 sprays from a bottle, the fragrance opened with 3 to 3 inches of projection and about 6 inches of sillage. The scent was strong but airy, diffuse, and weightless, not heavy in feel. Oud Picante had a potent weightlessness on my skin, but Inverno Russo feels even more diffuse in comparison, not to mention a bit fluffy in the opening. 2.5 hours in, the projection drops to about 1 to 1.5 inches; the sillage shrinks to about 3-4 inches unless I move my arm whereby a big burst of scent pops up for a few minutes before dropping back down. In the 5th hour, Inverno Russo hangs close to the body, but it only turns into a skin scent at the start of the 9th hour. In total, it lasted just under 17.5 hours on me. With a 1-spray equivalent, it lasted between 13.5 and 14 hours.
On Fragrantica, there is one review at the time of this post. “Pinkster56,” a lover and owner of Siberian Musk and Ottoman Empire, liked Inverno Russo the best out of the new quartet but called it “more challenging” than the earlier releases. He or she writes, in large part:
Of his four brand new Areej le Dore scents, Inverno Russo is my favorite, although I find it surprisingly more challenging to wear than any of his earlier releases. The oud and the musk and the civet render this fragrance decidedly animalic–not stinky or skanky, per se–but in a dark, chewy, chocolate-mixed-with-oud sort of way. And there is even a tiny, almost naphthalene-like note that adds to its indolic character. This rich noir-ishness reminds me of the plush, velvety texture of certain vintage scents by Lanvin and Patou that I adore and miss, although I find Inverno Russo a bit less balanced than these older frags. Here, the darker aspects seem to override the florals–something that is especially noticeable when sprayed on clothing. I have a feeling that the oud Adam used here is partly (or primarily) responsible for this scent’s unusual darkness and depth, but there are also some notes here I am unfamiliar with (e.g., Indonesian gaharu boya and betel leaf) that may be contributing, as well. While the beautiful florals combined with the clove and cardamom and sandalwood, recall Adam’s own Ottoman Empire, Inverno Russo’s far deeper base takes this scent into decidedly different territory. I think many will find IR’s oudy and animalic nature compelling, while I find it just a bit too ‘bottom heavy’ to enjoy as a daily wear. [Emphasis to perfume names added by me.]
There are several reviews for Inverno Russo on the Basenotes Official Areej Le Doré Discussion thread at the time of this post, starting with comment #512 on page 18. The reviews are interspersed over many pages, but here are five different accounts (two of which have been compiled together across the poster’s various comments) for you to get an idea of other people’s experiences. You can read the rest on your own later if you’re interested.
“Diamondflame” wrote in comments #512, #540, #567:
First impression: it smells like a kissing cousin of the Siberian, albeit with the musk dialled down and rose/florals in place of citrus/pine. It’s only been an hour but I like what I’m smelling. […¶] The rose here is not of the tart, dewy and plummy variety but more of the sweeter, soft velvety kind. Gentle in demeanour, it pairs exceedingly well with the musk and plays harmoniously with the well-pitched white florals. I don’t find the civet but I’m perfectly fine with that. [¶] The rose may be a little more prominent in the first 30 min but for the most part it sings harmoniously as a well-blended natural-smelling floral musk, not a musky rose nor a rosy musk, resting on a warm ambery bed of muted spices, sandalwood and resins. Still waiting if the ‘animalic’ aspect will rear its head…
For “Bangkok Hound,” Inverno Russo was “mostly rose and musk. It’s the same kind of musk from Siberian Musk to my nose. I ordered them both. I had no performance issues with IR.”
For “Starblind,” Inverno Russo was initially “gorgeous” but she had to revise her review after several tests due to the animalic intensity of the oud. In Comments #572 and #585 on page 20, she wrote:
After repeated wearings, I have had to modify my original review of Inverno Russo somewhat. I still find IR fascinating, but its animalic oudiness seems to overwhelm its floral components in a way that bothers me a bit. I am evidently the only person to find this problematic, and I utterly envy those of you who barely notice its ‘indolic’ nature. (I keep using words like animalic and indolic, but I actually think it’s probably oud that I’m smelling.) Maybe I am simply not an ‘oud person.’ 🙁
Or maybe it’s the sweetness combined with the oud?
[¶] I am usually such a fan of animalics, so I still can’t quite figure out how IR seems a bit much for me.
For “StellaFlynnDiver,” the primary focal point of Inverno Russo was animalic musk and, on her, the oud briefly turned a bit fecal. In comment #582, she wrote:
On my skin, it’s an animalic musk during the first 8 hours. Like everyone said, its musky animalicness is reminiscent of Siberian Musk. But instead of lime, pine and chypre backbone, IR seems to exaggerate the opening animalic muskiness of SM. It has a chocolate-like butteriness during its first hour, and then turns a bit barnyard, leathery, even mushroom-y afterwards, which I think is the oud’s effect. However, I don’t smell the oud as a distinct note, it’s completely integrated within the musk to put the emphasis on the animalic aspect.
I can smell traces of white floral indolicness here and there during the first 8 hours, but never a clear image of floralcy. It’s only after 8 hours that the plush, velvety pink peach-rose starts to bloom and take the place of oud. And yes, I get the reference of Ottoman Empire, too, especially the dry down of these two fragrances.
Since SM and OE are my favourites among the first three Areej, I’m really enjoying IR, too, I can see how the animalic facet of oud might add some difficulty. It’s even a bit fecal at brief moments. Fortunately it’s never the focus, but more like the naughty side-kick of musk.
Starblind’s reversal highlights the importance of testing these fragrances multiple times, but it can result in positive changes of opinion just as much as negative ones. Take for example, “Mudweasel,” who loved Inverno Russo enough to order a bottle but whose initial reaction to the fragrance was quite negative. Initially, in Comment #636 on page 22, he wrote:
Inverno Russo – again, had high hopes for this, given some people commenting that it was almost a cross between Siberian Musk and Ottoman Empire. Sadly for me, this one is a big no… although I can’t really put my finger on why. It’s not that it’s too animalic (I’ve several in my modest collection that trump it for that), but it just doesn’t seem to know what direction it wants to go in. Sorry I can’t be more specific.
As noted earlier, however, subsequent testing made him change his mind. He wrote: “so upon further wearing, I’ve done a complete about turn on Inverno Russo – finally got my head around it and love it. I think I was simply expecting something different and was initially surprised/shocked.”
In addition to multiple tests, I would also recommend playing about with the amount of fragrance that you apply. In my experience with both attars and blended fragrances with dense quantities of rich, powerful, or heavy raw materials, the amount that you apply can have a significant impact on the notes and nuances which are highlighted.
Although the official sample sets are now sold out, Surrender to Chance now has the all 4 new Areej fragrances if you wish to buy an individual sample for testing. (Link below in the Details section.) Several Basenotes splitters also offer decants. So, if any of the 4 new Areej releases interest you, my advice is to sample and test.
For me, Inverno Russo wasn’t a hit and my feelings are quite mixed. I really dislike the first half of the fragrance, but the second half was okay. I hadn’t expected the fragrance to be sugary or candied, which it was for its first 6-8 hours. I had expected a more rose-centric bouquet, but the roses were never a major part of the fragrance on my skin, not even in the second half. When the roses did finally appear in a noticeable way, they were light, scattered, and so petal-soft that they lacked much impact. The oud was another surprise. I didn’t like the cocoa powder/hot chocolate aroma in combination with the sugary musk, but I was enormously relieved that it never turned into hardcore Hindi and Hainan-style fermented cheese, rawhide, and barnyard aromas.
Some people have noted similarities between Inverno Russo and Siberian Musk. I don’t find a major degree of overlap based on what appeared on my skin other the fact that they both have a strong backbone of musk layered with (very different degrees of) floralcy and animalics. Siberian Musk was initially very much a vintage-style animalic chypre on my skin with oodles and oodles of mossy greenness, which thereby put it into the category of fragrances like MAAI or Aeon 001, even Diaghilev (although the latter was not really strongly animalic on me at all). With Siberian Musk, there was initially just as much greenness and floralcy as musk furriness. Plus, the florals were overt, strong, deep, individually clear, hefty, and unmistakable, not a subsumed, muffled sub-layer. When the fragrance did eventually turn into a pure musk in scent genre, its aroma and feel were more ambered than what appears in Inverno Russo’s drydown. Moreover, the musk was never once sweet or sugary.
Inverno Russo, in contrast, begins as a floral woody musk before transitioning into a woody musk then into a pure musk. It has no chypre qualities or verdant mossiness whatsoever. Instead of aromatic, fresh pine or lime in the beginning, there is hot cocoa and nag champa style incense. More importantly, its floralcy is never so concentrated, rich, overt, beefy, dense, or clearly delineated in character. For example, at no point could I pick out individual components like champaca, gardenia, osmanthus, or peach blossom. I could pick out the rose, but it was often diaphanous in feel, not beefy like the florals in Siberian Musk.
In a similar vein, Inverno Russo’s animalics had a completely different character than the sort in Siberian Musk. There were no clearly delineated Tonkin deer, and zero fur. In fact, Inverno Russo wasn’t really animalic on my skin, perhaps because the Hainan and Hindi ouds never blasted their typical, intense rawhide, fur, skank, or fecal barnyard aspects. Whatever the reason, the musk in Inverno Russo was mostly just… well, musky — not furry, not urinous, not deer pod-like, and not redolent of animals at all. Just plain, simple muskiness that was initially clean, sweet, and sugary; then dark, smoky, and sweet (like Russian Adam’s “sweet and hot” comment in the official description); then, finally, just plain dark with a lovely velvety and suede textural feel.
I’ve elaborated these differences so that you don’t go into Inverno Russo expecting a fragrance that is a close match to Siberian Musk and end up getting disappointed. Yes, there is musk and floralcy, but they alone are not enough to create a powerful overlap between the two scents. Their note lists and fragrance genres are too dissimilar. So are their characters. It’s not merely the fact that Inverno Russo isn’t an opulent, heavy, powerhouse classical chypre; it also doesn’t feel remotely vintage in its character. For me, Inverno Russo is a modern fragrance in its style, perhaps because it is gourmand sweet in its beginning, or perhaps because it’s such an abstract floral woody musk at times.
So, put away thoughts of a close Siberian Musk relative, take Inverno Russo as it is, on its own, test it a few times, and then make up your mind.
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of Areej Le Doré. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.
Shopping Details: Inverno Russo costs $300 for 50 ml of extrait de parfum. It’s limited-edition; only 100 bottles have been made. The official sample sets are sold out, but Surrender to Chance has individual samples starting at $6.99 for a 1/4 ml vial and a sample set of all 4 new fragrances starting at $27.99 for 1/4 ml vials. They ship to most places worldwide. “Strifeknot” will probably have decant splits on Basenotes as well. Full bottles are available exclusively at Areej Le Doré.