Fragrance Recommendations: Leathers, Vetivers, Fougères & More

Source: mf.techbang.com

Source: mf.techbang.com

Every week, I get at least three or four emails from people seeking fragrance recommendations. The vast majority of them are men, but there are some women, too. Most of them are not long-time readers of the blog and have simply stumbled upon it, so they don’t know my long-time favorites that I talk about often, but a few are subscribers who seek specific suggestions. Sometimes, people start by giving me a brief idea of their tastes and/or names of prior fragrances they’ve worn. Typically, though, the information is insufficient for me to know what might really suit them, so I write back with a list of questions, trying to narrow down what notes they have issues with or love best, how they feel about sweetness or animalics, how their skin deals with longevity or projection, and what sort of power they want in both of those last two area.

Ralph Lauren Purple Label editorial ad via tumblr.com

Ralph Lauren Purple Label editorial ad via tumblr.com

What I’ve noticed is that I tend to make certain recommendations time and time again for particular genres or fragrance families. So, I thought I would share them with all of you. However, please keep in mind that these names are in response to some pretty set criteria given to me by the person in question, even though many of those factors end up being quite similar. For example, the men who like dark, bold, rich or spicy orientals all seem to want a certain sillage or “to be noticed in a crowd,” as several have put it. In contrast, most of those who want clean, crisp scents prefer for them to be on the discreet side and suitable for professional business environments. Men whose favorites are classical designer scents that fall firmly within the fougère, green, fresh, or aromatic categories (like Tuscany, Guerlain’s Vetiver, or vintage Eau Sauvage, for example) tend to want very traditional scents, even “old school” in vibe, and not something sweet, edgy, or with a twist. So, that is what I try to give them as recommendations, which means that there are a whole slew of fragrances that fall outside the category.

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Jovoy Paris Psychédélique: A Fantastic Trip

Source: standout-fireplace-designs.com

Source: standout-fireplace-designs.com

A man in a library before a crackling fire, sipping cognac on a leather sofa, as the air around him swirls with a phantasmagoric stream of colours. Burnt umber, raw ocher, dusty terracotta, dark tobacco, golden caramel, nutty toffee, and a touch of blackened green. There are hints of spice and smoke in the air, along with a musky earthiness, but it is a scene of endless warmth, coziness, and richness.

Then, as if a magician waved his hand, the swirling coloured mists dissolve, and the scene changes. The man has been transported outdoors to a land filled with dark, mentholated greens, touched by earthy browns, and a hint of reddened dust. It’s muddy at times, and a muted chanting sound in the background momentarily conjures up the Summer of Love in 1968. It’s only a brief trip, though, and soon, he finds himself in his bed, surrounded by the finest, gauzy, silky sheets made of soft red, ambered caramel gold, and creamy vanilla. Did it actually happen, or was it a trip most Psychédélique?

Source: Bloom Perfumery.

Source: Bloom Perfumery.

Psychédélique is a fragrance from Jovoy Paris, an utterly glorious patchouli scent in all its best, truest, spicy-sweet-smoky red-brown incarnations. The fragrance (which I shall spell here on out without the warranted accents, for ease and speed) is really close to my ideal patchouli, though it doesn’t have the best projection after its opening stage. But what an opening it is!

Psychedelique is an eau de parfum, created by Jacques Flori of Robertet and released in 2011. Jovoy’s owner and creative director, Francois Hénindescribes the scent and its notes as follows:

“Psychedelic: my great patchouli fragrance, dark and smoky, ambered, generous and opulent… Even the rain and mud of Woodstock won’t wash it away.”

Head notes:  fresh hesperidium [citrus]

Heart notes: floral rose, geranium, ambered, woody (patchouli, cistus, gum cistus)

Base notes: vanilla, musk

Psychedelique with its box. Source: Roullier White.

Psychedelique with its box. Source: Roullier White.

Luckyscent has rather a wonderful description of Psychedelique:

Psychédélique, Jovoy’s magnificent ambered patchouli, largely stays in the shadows, meditating on the synergies between a cocoa-like amber and an inky-dark patchouli, although rose and geranium offer a touch of freshness to its earthy sexiness.

The synaesthete might say that on the olfactory color wheel, patchouli resides somewhere between black and chocolate brown, with a bit of iridescent chartreuse green shimmering in between. Camphory, inky, aromatic, and even darkly refreshing, the elegant patchouli in Psychédélique […] is like an olfactory Mark Rothko painting that explores the gradations between dark colors — in this case, patchouli, amber, and musk.

St. James Hotel's Library Bar, Paris.  Source: Oyster.com

St. James Hotel’s Library Bar, Paris.
Source: Oyster.com

Luckyscent finds the name unfortunate, as do I, because it tends to create the impression that Psychedelique is a dirty, filthy, head-shop, incense-y fragrance best suited to hippies. It’s not. It’s extremely refined, elegant and well-done. For me, the image which came to mind again and again was primarily that of a traditional men’s club or a rich library, filled with dark, studded, stuffed Chesterfield leather sofas, a crackling fire, aged cognac, a hint of smoke in the air, and a plate of caramels. Yes, there is a mentholated, camphorous stage redolent of green patchouli, but it’s not significant on my skin, and really far from the core essence of the fragrance. In fact, most of the time, the green undertone translates as wonderful peppermint.

Source: porjati.ru

Source: porjati.ru

Psychedelique opens on my skin with strong labdanum amber and patchouli, infused by a huge amount of boozy cognac. The patchouli has all its true nuances: leathery, spicy, smoky, sweet, dry, woody, and with a hint of something almost resembling tobacco. Psychedelique even carries the faintest whiff of a fruited element that smells like cinnamon-studded oranges. A definite blast of chilly peppermint follows, arm in arm with chewy, dark chocolate. Patchouli’s camphorous, green side lurks underneath, along with a tinge of black, almost “head-shop” like incense, but they’re only the subtlest of suggestions on my skin. Much more significant is the utterly glorious toffee and caramel amber, just lightly flecked by creamy vanilla.

"Black Widow v1" by *smokin-nucleus. Source: DeviantArt. (Website link embedded within photo.)

“Black Widow v1” by *smokin-nucleus. Source: DeviantArt. (Website link embedded within photo.)

It’s a very potent brew in the opening hour, especially when sniffed up close, but Psychedelique has a soft quality about it. It feels a lot denser and more concentrated than it actually is, and is only truly intense within its small 3 inch bubble. To me, the opening has the best aspects of Oriza L. Legrand‘s Horizon and of Reminiscence‘s Elixir de Patchouli, but with none of the latter’s swampy, smoked cedar and sharp vetiver. When smelled from afar, Psychedelique is a beautiful swirl of ambered caramel gold and reddened, spicy patchouli, infused with cognac, toffee, peppermint, dry cocoa, sweetness, and a hint of fruitiness.

Source: urlm.co

Source: urlm.co

Within 5 minutes, Psychedelique starts to morph. At first, there is a dusty, dry earthiness that smells like damp, wet soil. To my regret, it cuts through some of the aged, boozy cognac which I love so much. At the same time, the rich amber in which all the notes are nestled turns slightly musky. There is also an increasing whiff of the salty-sweet aspect of the ambergris, mixed with the labdanum’s nutty, toffee’d caramel aroma. Chocolate and peppermint continue to be laced throughout, and there is the faintest stirrings of vanilla in the base, but there is nary a hint of a citrus, rose or geranium note in Psychedelique, regardless of what the ingredient list may say.

"Green and Maroon," by Mark Rothko. Source: ArtTribune.com

“Green and Maroon,” by Mark Rothko. Source: ArtTribune.com

It takes 25 minutes for Psychedelique’s greener side to become apparent. The fragrance becomes much more mentholated and camphorous; at the same time, the amber’s lovely caramel, vanilla, and toffee tonalities weaken. The boozy cognac retreats almost completely to the sidelines, and eventually vanishes before the hour is over. Psychedelique feels simultaneously softer, sharper, and dirtier. The dusty cocoa powder and chewy chocolate remain, but both are significantly more muted. Psychedelique is now very green-black in visual huge, instead of the red-brown-golds of the opening.

Source: rgbstock.com

Source: rgbstock.com

I should point out, however, that the degree of greenness in this stage varied depending on the amount of perfume that I applied, and that the note was not a huge part of the scent in a few of my tests. The more Psychedelique you spray, the more the green phase seems to come out around the 30 minute mark. A number of times, the main duo of golden caramel and patchouli remained as the dominant focus alongside with the mentholated, green-black note. In other words, if you don’t spray on a lot of Psychedelique, the greenness doesn’t take over the scent.

In all cases, however, the stage is pretty short-lived, and lasts under an hour or so. Generally, it begins to recede 90 minutes into Psychedelique’s development. At that point, the fragrance begins its slow transformation back to its original stage, minus that wonderful cognac booziness and heavy richness. At the end of the second hour, Psychedelique is a soft, smooth blend of patchouli with amber and sweetness, and only vestigial traces of the greenness lurking to the side. The sillage is low, unfortunately, and Psychedelique hovers an inch above the skin.

Via hdwpapers.com

Via hdwpapers.com

About 3.5 hours in, Psychedelique is a soft, spiced patchouli sweetened with creamy vanilla, and flecked by nutty, toffee’d labdanum. There are hints of cocoa powder, smokiness, and earthiness, but the whole thing is beautifully balanced. It’s neither too sweet, nor too spicy, smoky, chewy, or earthy. There is almost a dry woodiness to the plant, but Psychedelique never feels truly woody like some of its kin in the genre, many of whom are heavily infused with cedar and/or vetiver.

The whole thing is absolutely lovely, but it’s also a sheer, discrete skin scent — too much so for my personal preference. Unobtrusiveness seems to be the Jovoy style and signature, as all the other fragrances that I’ve tried from the line have been similar. They start with a bang that eventually fades to sheerness in a polite whimper. Here, I feel almost cheated. I’ve been looking for a great patchouli for ages, so to find one with a truly lovely opening and drydown, only to have to sniff my wrist with determination by the 4th hour is incredibly frustrating.

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

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

On the plus side, however, Psychedelique lasts and lasts. It may take some determined whiffs to detect it at the end, but that end phase frequently lasts over 14 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. No, seriously, it does. The smallest quantity of Psychedelique will yield 12 hours at a minimum, with minuscule traces lasting up to the 14th hour. With a larger amount, the perfume’s longevity is well over-night. Just 3 small sprays from my tiny atomizer sample, amounting to 2 sprays from a regular bottle, made Psychedelique last 19.5 hours on me. I couldn’t believe it. Again, it did take some determined sniffing to detect, with my nose fully on the skin, but Psychedelique was definitely pulsating away in a few quarters on my arm.

In all cases, the drydown was a perfect, slightly spiced patchouli with vanilla and amber. Up until the 9th hour, the golden haze was flecked with a hint of chilly mentholated peppermint and a touch of cocoa powder. In its very final moments, Psychedelique was just a smear of golden sweetness.

On Fragrantica, Psychedelique has very positive reviews. A number of people compare the scent to Reminiscence’s take on the note, and one mentions Montale‘s Patchouli Leaves. On my skin, the Montale was very different and quite gourmand, while both Reminiscence fragrances were significantly woodier in nature. I think a much closer comparison would be to Oriza‘s Horizon, except the Psychedelique has greater heft, depth, and body. It’s also got better projection and longevity, as Horizon was painfully diaphanous on my skin. The Psychedelique feels much chewier as a whole, more ambered. It has more cocoa, and substantially more greenness than Horizon, too. If only it didn’t drop in projection after 2.5 hours!

In terms of helpful commentary, I think the reviews on Luckyscent are more useful than the Fragrantica ones in showing how Psychedelique may turn out on some skins. The two comments there read as follows:

  • Psychedelique starts out on the sharp, dry end of the patchouli spectrum — not at all unpleasant, and rather similar to L’Artisan’s Patchouli Patch. But an hour later, the sharp notes have dropped back into place and the fragrance becomes warmer, more rounded and much more nuanced. There’s a really nice play between the drier and warmer elements of the fragrance. I totally agree that the name Psychedelique, and its connotations with dirty hippies and cheap patchouli, is rather unfortunate, because this is a sophisticated, very wearable patchouli-based scent.
  • It’s funny, this one – I have almost a love/hate with it. If you’re patient and can wait for the drydown 30-60 minutes later, you’ll be thrilled. The [Luckyscent] description is as good one, but it takes awhile to get intoxicating. Initial blast is super sharp, but with time, your skin is left with a beautiful woodsy, ambered patchouli. My patience is good though and I bought a FB.

As a side note, a number of people in the blogosphere have been talking lately about Von Eusersdorff‘s Patchouli scent, and I got to try that while at Jovoy too. It was a brief, cursory test in the midst of a lot of other sniffing, so my perceptions may be a little skewed, but I thought Psychedelique was much better. It struck me as richer, deeper, chewier, darker, boozier, and significantly more intense. I remembering telling the manager at the time, “Ah, this is a proper patchouli.”

I’m seriously considering getting a full bottle of Psychedelique, but I keep hesitating. The perfume costs $180 for 100 ml, and the cheap-skate side of me is saying that $180 is quite a lot for what is essentially a patchouli-amber soliflore with sillage issues. At $180 with fantastic projection for the first 5-6 hours, I would have no problem whatsoever. At $140 with soft sillage, I probably would not hesitate, especially as 100 ml gives me the opportunity to reapply frequently. But something about the $180 figure with the sillage gives me pause. There is a cheaper option with a 50 ml bottle, but that seems to be limited to international, EU vendors like London’s Bloom Perfumery and Jovoy itself. Besides, I loved Psychedelique enough to want a full 100 ml.

At the end of the day, however, pricing is a personal determination, so if you are looking for a great, traditional patchouli, you should at least give Psychedelique a sniff. It’s definitely unisex, it’s not at all difficult (especially after the brief, muted 40-minute green stage), and might be appropriate at the office (if you spray it 2 hours before you leave for work). It’s a perfect winter scent, but I have no doubt that true patchouli lovers would enjoy it all year round.

Disclosure: I obtained my sample from Jovoy itself, but it was while I was in the store, browsing as a customer. My sample was not given to me for the purposes of a review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Psychedelique is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle that costs $180, €120, or  £100. It is available directly from Jovoy Paris which also offers a smaller 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle for €80. Some British vendors also sell Psychedelique in the smaller 50 ml size for £70. In the U.S.: Psychedelique is available at MinNYLuckyscent, and Aedes. The line is usually carried at NY’s Aaron’s Apothecary but the site had malware on it, so I didn’t risk getting a link. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Psychedelique is available at The Perfume Shoppe for US $180, but you may want to email them to ask for the CAD price. In the UK, Psychedelique is available in both sizes from Bloom Perfumery, with the smaller 1.7 oz bottle retailing for £70. Samples are also available for purchase. The larger 100 ml size is also sold at Roullier White for £100, with a sample similarly available for purchase. Other retailers include Harvey Nichols and Liberty London. In France, the perfume is obviously available from Jovoy, but you can also buy Jovoy fragrances from Soleil d’Or. In the Netherlands, all the Jovoy line of perfumes are sold at ParfumMaria. In Italy, you can find them at Vittoria Profumi and Sacro Cuoro Profumi for €120. For Germany and the rest of Europe, the entire Jovoy line is available at First in Fragrance in Germany (which also ships worldwide and sells samples), but the price is €5 higher at €125 a bottle. Same story with Germany’s Meinduft, though the latter does offer the smaller bottles at €85. In Croatia, Jovoy is sold at Flores in Zagreb, but their website is currently undergoing construction. In Romania, Jovoy fragrances, including Psychedelique, are available at Createur5. In Russia, Jovoy is sold at iPerfume, and in Greece, the line is available at Rosina Parfumery, though the site doesn’t have an e-store. Samples: I obtained my sample while at Jovoy itself, but a number of the retailers listed above also offer vials of the fragrance for purchase.

Jovoy Paris Private Label: Mad Max’s Smoked Vetiver Leather

Mad Max 2.

Mad Max 2.

Mad Max in black leather, burning up the roads. A bomb blast that left bubbling, tarry, rubbery asphalt. The burning, black tire bonfires used as smoke signals in Black Hawk Down. Vetiver on steroids, then nuked with napalm. Peppermints and candy canes at Christmas. Peaty single-malt Scotch, and aged cognac. The quiet, firm, confident masculinity of Gary Cooper or Rhett Butler which hides a sensitive heart. And, beatnik patchouli from the 1960s “Summer of Love.”

Private Label. Source: Bloom Perfumery.

Private Label. Source: Bloom Perfumery.

Those incongruous, contradictory thoughts are what come to mind when I wear Jovoy Paris‘ fragrance, Private Label. Most hardcore perfumistas have heard of Jovoy, a Paris boutique that is a mecca for buying the most high-end, exclusive, or rare fragrances. What many people don’t know is that Jovoy was once a perfume house going back to the Roaring Twenties, and “known for selling perfumes for the ‘gentlemen’s nieces’, a polite way Parisian dandies described buying gifts for their mistresses[.]” The house declined in the bleak years of the Depression, and ended completely during WWII, but it was resurrected in 2006 by Francois Hénin who launched a new range of fragrances.

In 2012, Private Label joined their ranks. It is an eau de parfum created by Cécile Zarokian, and Aedes says that it was “commissioned for a Jovoy client looking for a strong, oriental fragrance that is masculine, woody and ‘oud-free’.” Private Label is actually Francois Hénin’s personal favorite, his “ideal oriental scent.” He says, “This is the archetypal parfum de silage: it leaves a distinct trail while remaining consistent over time.” Luckyscent lists its notes as follows:

Papyrus, vetiver, leather, patchouli, sandalwood, Cistus labdanum

Source: thegiftedpony.com

Source: thegiftedpony.com

Each and every time I smell Private Label from afar, my immediate first impression is peppermints. To be precise: twisted, deranged, napalm-smoked, nuclear, apocalyptic, smoked peppermints in the middle of the snowiest pine forest somewhere in Siberia. It’s an impression that I can’t shake off, and it’s one I generally like.

The problem, however, is when I smell Private Label up close, as the result is distinctly less enchanting. In a nutshell, Private Label has a consistent structural backbone of burnt rubber and bubbling tar from a hot, melting asphalt road. The note is there in Private Label’s development from start to finish, varying only in its prominence, order of appearance, or forcefulness. It is always mentholated and camphorous, with a subtext of eucalyptus and peppermints, but also of sharp smoke and burnt rubber. Whenever I think that it has been tamed by patchouli, whenever I think that Private Label has been softened with labdanum amber and a big splash of aged cognac, I’ll smell another part of my arm, and that rubbery, Mad Max, medicinal, burnt napalm smell will suddenly pop back up.

Birch Tar pitch via Wikicommons.

Birch Tar pitch via Wikicommons.

Private Label lists “leather” in its notes and, yes, the fragrance is often summarized as a vetiver-leather fragrance. To me, however, that description doesn’t tell the whole story. On my skin, Private Label isn’t a leather fragrance so much as it is birch tar one. There is a huge difference to my mind. Huge. Birch tar is a resinous extract that has been traditionally used to coat and treat rawhide and, as such, the camphorous, pine-y, phenolic, sometimes sulphurous ingredient is often used in perfumery to replicate the aroma of a certain type of black “leather.”

Cade oil from a juniper tree. Source: purearomaoils.com

Cade oil from a juniper tree. Source: purearomaoils.com

The Perfume Shrine states that “[r]endering a leather note in perfumery is a challenge for the perfumer[,]” and that what is “actually used” to create that olfactory impression are vegetal or synthetic ingredients which can include birch tar, juniper cade and quinoline. To my nose, Jovoy Private Label reflects multiple facets of each of these notes which really dominate the fragrance’s overall bouquet for much of its evolution. I could tell you that Private Label smells of “leather” and smoke, but those general terms have the potential to give you a very misleading impression of this utterly uncompromising, aggressively intense, very hardcore scent.

So, let’s take a look at The Perfume Shrine’s explanation of what the key notes actually smell like:

Birch: Betula Alba, the tree known as birch [….] Traditionally used in tanneries in Russia, Finland and Northern Europe in general, its bark produces birch tar and resin, an intensely wintergreen and tar-like odour, which has been used in Cuir de Russie type of scents in the distant past. 

Juniper and cade oil:
Juniper trees produce dark viscuous oil (cade) upon getting burned which possesses a smoky aroma that reminds one of campfires in the forests. Also used in Cuir de Russie type of scents in the past along with birch. […]

The major revolution in the production of leathery notes in perfumery came in the 1880s with the apparition of quinolines, a family of aromachemicals with a pungent leather and smoke odour that was used in the production of the modern Cuir de Russie scents appearing at the beginning of the 20th century such as Chanel’s (1924) as well as in Caron’s Tabac Blond (1919), Lanvin’s Scandal (1933) and, most importantly, Piguet’s Bandit (1944). […][¶]

isobutyl quinoline … possesses a fiercely potent odour profile described as earthy, rooty, and nutty, echoing certain facets of oakmoss and vetiver and blending very well with both. Isobutyl quinoline also has ambery, woody, tobacco-like undertones: a really rich aromachemical!

Scene from Mad Max 2 via cinemasights.com

Scene from Mad Max 2 via cinemasights.com

I suspect all three things are used in Jovoy’s Private Label when it summarily mentions mere “leather.” The perfume is a vetiver scent in many ways, but it is vetiver transformed into one living in Mad Max’s world, a scent that the Road Warrior would wear with its uncompromising smoke, tar, asphalt, and rubber facets. If any of you love the toughness of Robert Piguet‘s vintage Bandit and the birch tar smoke of Andy Tauer‘s Lonestar Memories, but want both taken up a notch and infused with smoked vetiver, then Jovoy’s Private Label is for you.

Photo: Narinder Nanu via washingtonpost.com

Photo: Narinder Nanu via washingtonpost.com

Private Label opens on my skin with a forceful blast of mentholated tar, medicinal astringent, chewy patchouli, smoky vetiver, and piney juniper-cade smoke. The patchouli has hints of aged cognac underlying it, but its more dominant nuance is an earthy, almost medicinal, slightly mentholated note that evokes a black, 1960s “head shop,” hippie scent. Private Label most definitely has leather seeping all throughout, infusing all the other notes, but as explained above, this is really birch tar and cade “leather.” It smells like campfire bonfires, smoked rubber, diesel fuel, and a tarmac set aflame until the asphalt is hot, almost bubbling, and smoking. I rarely think that notes have a heated temperature, but the “leather” in Private Label starts off feeling as though the piney, sulphurous resin has been set on fire.

Tar pit bubbles. Source: Los Angeles' La Brea tar and asphalt pits. tarpits.org

Tar pit bubbles. Source: Los Angeles’ La Brea tar and asphalt pits. tarpits.org

One reviewer for the fragrance had a very different impression of both the note and Private Label’s opening blast. For Freddie of Smelly Thoughts, the leather made him think of a rubber dildo. No, he said that, really!

Private Label opens with a harsh, nail-varnish leather. A raw, earthy, smoky vetiver comes in quickly and together – the combination is pretty foul. It smells black and rubbery (yes, dildo was the first word that came into my head then too), with squeaky vinyl (stop!!!), and underneath, a resinous amber (lots of labdanum), a bit of incense and other bitter greens that just make it worse and worse.

I can see why he’d think that way, but I don’t hate it the way he does, and a large reason why may be due to the peppermints. On my skin, the patchouli’s underlying sweetness interacts with the mentholated, chilled accord to create a definite, very strong impression of hard-boiled, peppermint sweets. Christmas candy canes, perhaps, except these have been burnt and are emitting a sweet-bitter smokiness that is infused with eucalyptus. It’s an interesting aroma, and makes Private Label quite an arresting fragrance. From afar.

Photo: Larry Workman. Source: ssl.panoramio.com

Photo: Larry Workman. Source: ssl.panoramio.com

Ten minutes in, Private Label starts the slow (very, very slow) process towards softness and mellowness. The labdanum starts to move in the base, the aged cognac and sweet peppermint elements increase, and Private Label loses some of that bubbling asphalt feel. It’s a fractional change, though, as the perfume’s primary scent is that of the darkest, smokiest vetiver mixed with the very tarriest, smokiest, eucalyptus, cade rubber. It is simultaneously bone-dry, and sticky with chewy patchouli earthiness and the minty sweetness.

As time passes, the amber and vetiver elements becomes more dominant, and the birch-cade tar recedes, but it takes a lot of time and the rubber element never fully vanishes. What is interesting to me is the contrast between the mentholated, sweet peppermint, candy canes in the top layer, and the aged cognac in the bottom. In some ways, there is almost a peaty, single malt Scotch vibe to Private Label.

Source: high-definition-wallpapers.info

Source: high-definition-wallpapers.info

Around the second hour, when the juniper tar has receded to glower menacingly and threateningly from the sidelines, the other notes create a lovely winter bouquet from afar. I think of pine forests in the snow, candy canes on Christmas trees, aged cognac in a snifter beside a leather armchair by a warm, amber fire, and a chimney that is lightly smoking. It’s a visual that shatters whenever that resinous, burning,tar pops back up, skipping around different parts of my arm to show up at different times, and always taking me back to Mad Max in an apocalyptic world where the men are clothed in black, rubbery leather and the sole plant left on earth is a vetiver bush turned mutant through a napalm bomb.

Peat, in bricks, and used in a fire. Source: freeirishphotos.com

Peat, in bricks, and used in a fire. Source: freeirishphotos.com

The core essence of Private Label doesn’t change for hours on end. All that happens is a fluctuation in the prominence of certain notes, and a dropping of the fragrance’s sillage. After 60-minutes, Private Label hovers about 3 inches above my skin; by the end of the fourth hour, it is a skin scent, though it remains extremely potent when sniffed up close. The prominence of the smoke elements varies, with the birch tar seeming softer and more manageable for a brief period around the second hour. Then, suddenly, at the start of the third hour, Private Label somehow seems even smokier! Though the mentholated notes are much less, the vetiver has overtaken the birch tar as the dominant element, and my word, is it dark! I’ve never encountered vetiver that is quite so smoked. This is not smooth vetiver like in Chanel’s Sycomore, but some sort of mutant hybrid created in a peaty bonfire.

Source: colourbox.com

Source: colourbox.com

The vetiver continues to dominate the rest of Private Label’s development. By the end of the fourth hour, the perfume is a peppermint-eucalyptus vetiver over a soft amber infused with patchouli, cognac, leather, menthol, and the tiniest hint of sandalwood. It is soft in sillage, but still sharp and hard in actual scent. By the start of the seventh hour, Private Label is a peppermint vetiver over amber. The burnt rubber element continues to pop up here and there, hiding behind the other notes on some parts of my arm, while smelling of full-on acrid smoke and melting asphalt on a few tiny patches. In Private Label’s very final moments, the fragrance is merely a blur of woody sweetness with lingering traces of sharpness, rubber and smoke. All in all, it consistently lasted over 12 hours on my skin, with soft sillage but sharp notes.

I’m very torn on Private Label. The whole thing is a medley that, at times, fascinates and intrigues. At other times, however, it bewilders with a bit of cacophony, and those occasions tend to trump the more positive ones. From afar, it can be really pretty, but do you want a fragrance that you sometimes don’t dare to smell close up lest you singe your nostrils? I’m also not sure how versatile the perfume is, because it feels like a definite mood scent. Would anyone want to wear Private Label outside the snowy months of winter? Still, the seasonal issue doesn’t seem to matter so much as the gender one.

I generally believe that all fragrances are unisex in nature, but I think Private Label definitely skews more masculine. I suspect a number of women would recoil sharply at the fragrance, finding it medicinal, “chemical” (to quote one disgusted woman who smelled it on my arm), pungently aggressive, and unpleasantly rubbery. Hell, even some men do, judging by the reaction of Freddie from Smelly Thoughts. And he’s a chap with very avant-garde, extreme tastes!

However, I think that there is a narrow group of people who may very much enjoy Private Label: men and women who adore vetiver, but who also love birch tar, smoky fragrances, mentholated eucalyptus blends, and black leather notes. For me, it’s as though Andy Tauer’s Lonestar Memories and Naomi Goodsir‘s Bois d’Ascece had a swingers’ orgy with bucketfuls of tarry cade, a very hippie Woodstock patchouli, Santa Claus’ peppermint-eucalyptus muscle rub, Olivier Durbano‘s Black Tourmaline, and Serge LutensFille en Aiguilles. Nine months later, the baby that resulted was Private Label.

Gary Cooper. Source: allocine.fr

Gary Cooper. Source: allocine.fr

If that sounds like an odd fragrance that is far too harsh, I should add that I also see softness lurking in Private Blend’s heart. On the right man and the right skin, Private Blend would be a smoking hot fragrance, oozing sex appeal. It is a scent that exudes tough, confident masculinity but with glimpses of an underlying softness and sensitivity. The smoky rubber side might seem appropriate for Christian Bale’s Dark Knight, but I can’t help but also see Gary Cooper or Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler wearing Private Label. Peppermints, tough leather, smoky woods, aged cognac, and amber seem like an incredibly sexy combination. If I close my eyes, I can actually conjure up the man who would wear this, and envision sniffing the scent wafting from his neck. It would be damn hot.

Gary Cooper, "A Man's Man" via thewildmagazine.com

Gary Cooper, “A Man’s Man” via thewildmagazine.com

On Fragrantica, guys seem to love Private Label, calling it a fragrance that is unapologetically masculine, or perfect for a true vetiver lover. Take one commentator, “Alfarom,” who writes:

Probably my favorite among this line…at least so far.

A no-compromise, extremely woody-earthy, peatchouli-vetiver concoction enriched by warm leathery undertones (castoreum?) and dry sandalwood facets. What’s not to like? Absolutely assertive and straight forward. It has an overall “familiar” vibe which I can’t currently put my finger on but the general feel of the composition, is of something “pushed to the limits”.

If you like unapologetic, masculine, dark-&-dry fragrances, you have to try this.

Outstanding projection and extremely good lasting power.

Others echo his words and general impression:

  • probably one of the most true to life vetiver fragrances out there. the leather creates something dark and smoky that is balanced by a good dose of sandalwood.
  • One Of The Best Fragrances Money Can Buy, Fullstop
  • As if a sandalwood/Champaca/patchouli incense stick has been liquefied. Resinous, smokey and altogether as perfectly done as any fragrance can get. There is a hint of sweetness that makes me reminisce of another fragrance, but I can’t put my finger on which one it is. Guaic wood isn’t mentioned but it seems to make an appearance.
  • A very sexy, dry and smoky vetiver. This is a fragrance for true vetiver lovers. Very well balanced and a truly finished product. Excellent sillage and longevity. This one is a 10 out of 10 for me.

I think Private Label is too potentially difficult a scent to buy blindly (not that I ever recommend that in general!), and it’s certainly not for me, but I do think it would be a great fragrance for a very narrow group of people. If you love deeply smoky juniper cade, mentholated birch tar, rubbered black leather, chewy patchouli, and peaty, smoked vetiver, you should give Private Label a sniff. When I say that it would be “smokin’ hot,” I mean it in all senses of the phrase, good and bad….

Disclosure: I obtained my sample from Jovoy itself, but it was while I was in the store, browsing as a customer. My sample was not given to me for the purposes of a review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Private Label is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle that costs $180, €120, or  £100. It is available directly from Jovoy Paris which also offers a smaller 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle for €80. In the U.S.: it is available at
MinNYLuckyscentAedes, and Aaron’s Apothecary. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Private Label is available in both sizes from Bloom Perfumery, with the smaller 1.7 oz bottle retailing for £70. Samples are also available for purchase. The larger 100 ml size is also sold at Roullier White for £100, with a sample similarly available for purchase. Other retailers include Harvey Nichols and Liberty London. In France, the perfume is obviously available from Jovoy, but you can also buy Jovoy fragrances from Soleil d’Or. In the Netherlands, all the Jovoy line of perfumes are sold at ParfumMaria. In Italy, you can find them at Vittoria Profumi and Sacro Cuoro Profumi for €120. In Croatia, the line is sold at Flores in Zagreb, but their website is currently undergoing construction. In Russia, Jovoy is sold at iPerfume. For Germany and the rest of Europe, the entire Jovoy line is available at First in Fragrance in Germany (which also ships worldwide and sells samples), but the price is €5 higher at €125 a bottle. Same story with Germany’s Meinduft, though the latter does offer the smaller bottles at €85. Samples: I obtained my sample while at Jovoy itself, but a number of the retailers listed above also offer vials of the fragrance for purchase.

Lys Epona: Celtic Warriors of Spring

Source: Pinterest.

Source: Pinterest.

From her great height atop the cliffs, she could gaze at her realm and the fields of yellow, green and gold below her. The Celtic princess was astride a large white stallion, garbed in a softly burnished, slightly musky, brown leather cuirass, and draped with white lilies. Her skirt was made of hay, wheat and grass; her skin was coated in ambered oil; and her long hair braided with daffodils that matched the flowers in her horse’s mane. Behind her were her clansmen, giant warriors silent in leather and white flowers. As they rode down to pay homage to the shrine of Epona, the scent of their horses, leather, and lilies mingled in the air, floating like tendrils over the fields of daffodils, grass, wheat, and dry hay. It is the fragrance of Lys Epona.

Lys Epona via the Jovoy website.

Lys Epona via the Jovoy website.

Lys Epona is a new 2013 eau de parfum that is available exclusively at Jovoy Paris. I stumbled upon it while browsing the store and, as you can read in my profile on Jovoy, it blew me away. I had been utterly overwhelmed by all the treasures in the store, and had experienced olfactory fatigue up to that point, but Lys Epona made me sit up and take notice. Jovoy was kind enough to give me a sample to test its duration on my perfume-eating skin, and I still love it as much as I did initially, though its intimate sillage is a great problem for me personally.

While most reports credit Lys Epona and its creation to François Hénin, Jovoy’s owner, in collaboration with the perfume nose, Amelie Bourgeois of Flair, there is actually a third person involved who is much more significant to the tale. A very passionate Parisian perfumista — who prefers to be known only as Annabelle — is responsible for the very idea behind the fragrance. In fact, the perfume is really part of her new brand, Lys Epona, and not a part of Jovoy’s personal line of fragrances at all.

Source: Le Figaro.

Source: Le Figaro.

The source of Annabelle’s inspiration explains a lot about the fragrance. As she told me in an email and also recounts on her site, Lys Epona, the whole thing began one day in Paris when she was walking near the stables of Le Garde Républicaine, or the Republican Guard, France’s elite mounted cavalry and honour unit. As the smells of horses, leather, hay, and a touch of urine hit her nose, a lady passed by her carrying an enormous bouquet of lilies. The aromas blended together into a magnificent whole which took away her breath. As Annabelle later wrote to me, it was “[l]ike a dance between an Hussar and a Courtisan!”

Source: ambafrance-kz.org

France’s Republican Guard. Source: ambafrance-kz.org

Garde Republicaine. Photo: souvenir-francais-asie.com

Garde Républicaine. Photo: souvenir-francais-asie.com

The unusual combination stayed in her head. Annabelle loves perfume, particularly vintage ones, but also niche fragrances, and had been a frequent visitor to Jovoy Paris from its very inception back in 2010. So, one day, she told its owner, François Hénin, about the incident, and he asked her if she wanted to try turning her idea into an actual perfume. He put her in touch with Amelie Bourgeois, a “nose” at Flair, and the two worked on perfecting her vision of the dance between leather, horses and lilies.

The result, Lys Epona, was originally meant to be a personal, one-time perfume for its creator, but a twist of fate involving some vintage bottles eventually led to a 100-bottle distribution released under Jovoy’s sponsorship or patronage. (More on those vintage bottles later.) Annabelle later began her blog site, Lys Epona, as a means of talking about the fragrance without stealing from its thunder by coming out as its official creator, but the sponsorship ties that began the collaboration have accidentally ended up giving Jovoy the credit in some people’s eyes. I made the same mistake myself until Annabelle clarified the situation for me in an email, so I wanted to set the record straight.

So, you may ask, what precisely is in it? Jovoy’s French-language page for Lys Epona has many more details than the English version which I had looked at originally, but it still doesn’t include the perfume’s full list of notes. Thanks to Fragrantica (which also accidentally credits the perfume to Jovoy), it seems Lys Epona has:

top notes of bergamot, lily and ravensara; middle notes of narcissus [daffodils], jasmine, ylang-ylang, wheat, hay and lily; and base notes of musk, labdanum, tobacco and cedar.

Ravensara. Source: bellamiraessentialoils.com

Ravensara. Source: bellamiraessentialoils.com

Ravensara is not something that I’m at all familiar with, but its aroma turns out to be a significant part of Lys Epona’s beginning. According to my research, it is a member of the Laurel family and its seeds are what we consider to be nutmeg. Ravensara’s aroma, however, is a somewhat medicinal, camphorous one with definite fruity overtones.

Lys Epona always opens on my skin in the same way, but its subsequent development was never precisely the same on each of the four occasions that I tested it. The first time I tested the fragrance, it opened with a burst of freshly crisp citruses, followed by dry hay, leather, and green notes that almost seem like oakmoss at times. There is a plush greenness to the notes that is far more than mere grassiness and really verges on a slightly dry, mossy feel. A few minutes later, the white lilies burst on the scene. While their almost dewy sweetness is potent, it never overwhelms the citric, chypre-like leather start. All around you, the leather swirls in a soft cloud of burnished, aged richness. There is a definite animalic edge in the opening minutes that makes me wonder if Lys Epona has a good dose of civet in it.

Source: Jwallpapers.com

Source: Jwallpapers.com

Three minutes later, a slightly mentholated note appears, followed by what I would swear were orange blossoms. In two of my four tests, the orange blossoms seemed quite noticeable to me, taking on a Serge Lutens-like mentholated aspect from its indoles. I realise now that it has to be the combination of the ravensara (with its supposed camphoraceous notes that have a fruity edge) with the white floral blast from the lilies. That “mentholated orange blossom” cocktail ended up being the primary floral note in Lys Epona’s start for the first hour but, oddly enough, my other two tests of Lys Epona never created that impression. Instead, what was much more noticeable was the hay which appeared right alongside the leather and lily.

Epona by "Brian." Original source or site unknown.

Epona by “Brian.” Original source or site unknown.

All my tests, however, led to one overall impression of Lys Epona in its opening phase: the Celtic warriors of spring. Each and every time, Lys Epona evoked the image of a countryside filled with dry haystacks, and lightly imbued with the green of rolling, grassy hills and forest moss. There was always the jangle of a horse’s leather reins and its slightly musky smell as you rode through the verdant fields of daffodils to a garden of lush, heady, white flowers. And, on all occasions, the fresh citric start that felt almost chypre and fougère-like with the green and hay overtones dissipated rapidly. What was left behind as the primary essence of the scent was an almost masculine, outdoorsy and leather-influenced take on indolic white florals, that was also sweetly feminine at the same time.

Clip from "Wrath of the Titans." Source: buzzinefilm.com

Clip from “Wrath of the Titans.” Source: buzzinefilm.com

Lys Epona is lush, sexy, strong, but also somewhat rugged. This isn’t a lusty courtesan’s white florals that she would wear while languidly reclining on a chaise lounge, nor the delicate flowers of an ethereal, weeping maiden. No sexpot bombshells, or prissily powdered old ladies would fit the scent either. No, this is more a strong Amazonian’s white florals, a beautiful warrior whose well-worn leather armour is covered by wreaths of lilies, and who lives in an outdoors world surrounded by the very essence of nature. It is most definitely the scent of Epona, the protector of horses who was also revered by pagan Celtic tribes as the goddess of fertility, strength and abundance, and whose two symbols are usually horses and wheat.

For the first half of its life, Lys Epona is primarily a perfectly modulated, beautifully blended swirl of lilies and leather that come together in bouquet beribboned with hay, grass, daffodils, and the most infinitesimal touch of animalic horsiness. At its heart and deepest depths, however, Lys Epona has labdanum amber which stirs from its waking sleep as early as thirty minutes into the perfume’s development. Just a hint, just a whisper, but its warmth is enough to consistently diffuse the chilled, mentholated, almost pepperminty undertones to the ravensara. In most of my trials, as the amber slowly, fractionally, made its way to the surface, the leather retreated in equal measure to the sidelines. At the same time, there are undercurrents of green that have the sweetness of freshly mowed grass in summer, and which swirl alongside the amber and the dry hay that lie just below the surface.

Source: hdwallpapers.lt

Source: hdwallpapers.lt

On top are the white lilies, shining like beacons of purity and freshness in all their glory. Their scent is never heavily indolic, never cloyingly sweet. This is not the lily of Serge LutensUn Lys, nor the lily of some recent creations like Le Labo‘s Lys 41 or Tom Ford‘s Shanghai Lily. It’s a flower that is simultaneously sweet, dewy, watery, almost a little fruity (thanks to the ravensara) but also a little dry (thanks to the hay).

What’s interesting to me is how the lily can change its role in the perfume’s development from one day to the next and, more importantly, in its accompanying nuances. In my first test, as well as when I blindly sprayed it in Jovoy, Lys Epona seemed a scent that was dominated initially by orange blossoms with the lilies taking a back seat until the start of the second hour. In my second test, the lily was much more dominant from the start, then later joined by jasmine around the middle of the third hour. In my third and fourth tests, the lily was present again from the start, but its strength waxed and waned like a wave hitting the beach. It was also primarily backed by daffodils, instead of the other floral notes.

The leather is very much the same way. In my second and fourth tests, it was very pronounced through much of Lys Epona’s first three hours, and even occasionally dominated the lily. At other times, however, it receded to the sidelines after the first forty minutes, remaining as a constant second layer but never dominating. In all instances, its animalic opening was quickly tamed, and it felt like a very smooth, rounded note.

All of this should make one thing very clear: Lys Epona is what I call a very “prismatic scent.” It throws off different notes at different times like rays of light bouncing off crystals hit by the sun. I suspect different elements would dominate at different stages and upon different wearings. It’s the sign of a beautifully crafted perfume that is blended perfectly and whose great depths are in perfect harmony. Nonetheless, it would probably be more useful to you if I gave you a traditional rundown of its development, even if the analysis covers how it appeared on only one occasion. So, let’s take my third test of Lys Epona and go from there.

Lys Epona opened with its usual burst of fresh, crisp but juicy bergamot. Soon thereafter, there was the animalic leather with its slightly urinous, civet-like undertones, musk, and a hint of sweet florals. At first, the latter is a haze in which daffodils (or narcissus) is only vaguely distinguishable. Minutes later, there are the slow stirrings of lily, which are soon overtaken by a slightly camphorous, mentholated note heralding the arrival of the ravensara. There is an underlying fruitiness which, when combine with the citruses and white florals, again gives off the impression of orange blossoms. This time, however, it’s incredibly fleeting, and the hint of Tiger’s Balm medicated, mentholated salve is much more apparent. It swirls with the jangle of a leather saddle, the musk, the daffodil and lilies, creating a truly unique take on indolic flowers.

Source: Cepolina.com

Source: Cepolina.com

Fifteen minutes in, the hay, wheat, and grass elements arrive. When combined with the daffodils, they create a freshness that really feels like spring. At the same time, something about the combination of the ravensara and the grass once again evokes soft, plush oakmoss for me. However, the lilies now bloom in full force, as if they’d been awakened by the sun, and their almost watery, dewy sweetness counteracts that passing impression of a chypre. The hay also starts to shine, pushing aside the bergamot and citric notes to the side. At the same time, the civet-like urinous undertone fades away, as the leather takes on an almost burnished, rounded feel.

Epona, with her horse and her wheat. Created by Janet Chui. Source: janetchui.net

Epona, with her horse and her wheat. Created by Janet Chui. Source: janetchui.net

By the end of the first hour, the leather and the lily are dancing a tango, sensuously interwoven together, while the hay, grass, ravensara and daffodils clap from the sidelines. Far away, at the periphery, in the shadows, the labdanum amber wakes up at the noise and raises its head. Moment by moment, it draws closer to the stage, until it fully pushes aside the ravensara with its mentholated edge, and shines the light of its warmth onto the other players.

Things change further at the middle of the second hour. Lys Epona’s lily focus is now infused with jasmine, amber, hay, and the slow rumblings of tobacco in the base. From time to time, a juicy, citric sweetness pops back up, but the sweet spring-like aroma of daffodils is much more constant. The leather is now completely off center-stage, hidden behind the flowers, and the daffodil/narcissus in particular. Yet, it is subtly complemented by the somewhat nutty, leathery characteristics of labdanum. This is a leather that is now no longer animalic and musky, but rather just a suggestion. The labdanum is the same way for it lacks its slightly dirty, almost masculine essence at this stage. Instead, its aroma is more of regular, slightly sweetened, soft amber.

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. "Smoke and Lily" series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. “Smoke and Lily” series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

It takes a while for the labdanum to appear in all its beautiful glory. (Labdanum is my absolute favorite kind of amber precisely because of its unique aroma.) At the end of the third hour, Lys Epona turns into a scent that is primarily golden amber in focus, where the labdanum has turned the lily’s whiteness into a burnished bronze. The fragrance is a gorgeous glow of molten nuttiness and amber, infused with touches of lily, labdanum’s honeyed nuance, and musk. Flickers of leather, hay, grass, tobacco and an abstract woodiness dance all around. Lys Epona remains that way largely until its very final stage when it’s merely a blur of amber with minute traces of tobacco and hay. The lily has mostly faded away, as has the leather. At the very end, only the golden amber is left, like a sunset fading on the Celts.

Lys Epona is wonderfully original and extremely beautiful, but it also has some problems for me on a personal level. I repeatedly struggled with the sillage and longevity. Now, I have perfume-eating skin, but I rarely have a problem with sillage. And Lys Epona has very soft sillage! Obviously, projection is a very personal matter, but I can give you only my personal reaction, which is that Lys Epona becomes too soft too quickly. Each and every time, on all four tests, Lys Epona became an intimate scent after a mere one hour. One hour! It’s far, far too soon, in my opinion. Soft sillage that hovers only an inch or so above your skin is acceptable after a few hours and, in my ideal world, would be best after about 6-8 hours, but one hour?!

Spraying versus dabbing is not the answer, either. In general, aerosolisation adds to a perfume’s strength and longevity, but all my tests involved sprays from the small atomizer that Jovoy kindly made for me. So, while the perfume itself comes in a dab bottle (if memory serves me correctly), I was using the method that best amplifies a perfume’s projection. And that method gave me a mere hour or 75 minutes of a moderate perfume cloud! For people like myself who prefer a little more of a power to their fragrances, I think Lys Epona’s rapidly dropping sillage might be a little disappointing.

I should also add that increased quantity did not make much of a difference. I applied an average of 4 squirts from my 2 ml spray vial each time. During my fourth test, it almost felt as though the perfume were evaporating from my skin, as it became less potent and noticeable within a mere 15 minutes. Was the air conditioning too high, and the temperature too cold for Lys Epona to really bloom? To counter the possibility, I added two additional sprays, for a total of 6 sampler sprays (or what might be 3 big sprays from an actual bottle, depending on the size of its hole). No difference. Lys Epona was a lovely, albeit very soft, cloud for just 60 minutes, and then dropped in force. At all times, it was airy in weight and feel, never thick or opaque, and its final stages coated the skin like a gauzy whisper. Personally, I wish it had been a little less airy and sheer, but Lys Epona is not meant to be a baroque, molten, heavy scent.

In addition to the sillage issue, the longevity wasn’t great on my skin either, but that is obviously much more of a personal outcome due to my wonky skin chemistry. On average, Lys Epona lasted between 6.5 hours and 7.75 hours, depending on the quantity that I used. I may have perfume-consuming skin, but I’ve certainly found a number of brands and fragrances that have lasted 12+ hours on me, even up to 16 hours in small, lingering spots, and often with a significantly smaller quantity of liquid than I used here. The fact that Lys Epona is not exactly cheap (€225), is only 65 ml (just over 2.1 oz), and would require a lot of sprays for the perfume to really last on me means that I would go through that bottle quite quickly. For me, it’s a concern, and the primary reason why I won’t consider buying Lys Epona for myself.

In my exchanges with the absolutely lovely, incredibly sweet, outgoing and very vibrant Annabelle, I mentioned the sillage and longevity issues. She was surprised to hear that I thought Lys Epona was very soft. Apparently, her friend tells her that she can’t spray Lys Epona when they’re going to be in the small confines of a car because it’s too strong. But sillage is a very subjective, personal matter, so it really depends on how one defines “strong” and the yardsticks used therein. Annabelle mentioned that she was not fond of the ’80s powerhouse scents, after one too many bad experiences being cloistered at 7 a.m. in the elevator with a neighbor who sprayed on too much. Now, me, in comparison, I hope to die being covered and drenched in vintage ’70s Opium, and I love Amouage scents, so obviously I have a very different interpretation of the perfect sillage.

What was interesting to me is something else that Annabelle mentioned as a specific goal for the perfume’s structure. She wanted a very strong, powerful opening, almost like a sort of Lutens-like “Lys Criminelle.” Yet, she intentionally sought to make that opening later turn into something soft and intimate for symbolic reasons, as if the “lily and horse, after a race, finally tamed each other.” I admire that intellectually, and think it’s rather a brilliant piece of olfactory meaning. I also think she fully accomplished her goal, because the two notes did tame each other in each of my tests.

John Collier, "Queen Guinevere's Maying" (1900). Source: Wikipedia.

John Collier, “Queen Guinevere’s Maying” (1900). Source: Wikipedia.

At the end of the day, issues of sillage and longevity are all a matter of personal preference. Some people absolutely hate perfumes that are too strong, with Amouage-like intensity and forcefulness. They specifically seek more unobtrusive fragrances that are like a suggestive, personal whisper, or that might be something they could wear to work without bothering colleagues. Lys Epona would definitely qualify. I also think that it would work perfectly on both a man and a woman. It is rugged and outdoorsy with its spring-like touches and leather, but it is also beautifully feminine and elegant.

In short, nothing I’ve said here about the sillage or airiness should change the main bottom line: Lys Epona is a gorgeous scent that is incredibly original, creative, different, and elegant. The radiating prisms of its notes, its beautifully evocative nature, its depths, and its very classique, old-school sophistication are a stunning achievement for a first time perfume creator, and Annabelle’s passionate love for perfumery shows in every drop. Amelie Bourgeois’ talents (and supposed love for horses) also show, so both of them deserve much praise in my opinion. If you end up buying Lys Epona, I think you will have a truly original creation on your hands which will stand out in your collection. I haven’t quite come across anything like it.

Lys Epona also happens to be a very lovely looking perfume in terms of its packaging. From the moment I held the bottle in my hands, I felt as though I had a rare, vintage treasure of great character. From the black-and-gold, scrolled letters on the label, to the Lalique-like, clouded crystal stopper, Lys Epona is beautiful. For me, its look not only conjures up images of the golden age of perfumery, but also serves as a wonderful parallel to the scent itself whose sophisticated, complex, very nuanced structure give it a very classique feel.

Lys Epona. Photo courtesy of Annabelle.

Lys Epona. Photo courtesy of Annabelle.

There is another story behind the Lys Epona bottles, and I think the tale is significant because it explains the limited nature of the perfume’s production. As noted up above, Lys Epona was originally intended to be a one-time thing made only for Annabelle in a labour of love. As Annabelle explained to me in an email, things changed one day when François Hénin called her and asked her to come to Jovoy, as he had a little surprise for her. There, he gave her something in a very yellowed, dirty newspaper. It was an old bottle. But there was more.

That very first, original bottle wrapped in paper. Source: lysepona.blogspot.com

That very first, original bottle wrapped in paper. Source: lysepona.blogspot.com

A friend of Mr. Henin’s could sell them a whole box of real vintage bottles from the Brosse glass factory and dating back to the 1930s! There were only 108 of them, and due to their age, some were not in a state that could be offered to customers, but there were at least 100 good, genuinely antique bottles. (You can see the original, untouched bottles in a post on that subject on Annabelle’s site.) As a final coincidence and sign, the newspaper that the first bottle was put in was a page from 1934 that talked about a horse race. It was all too perfect, especially for Annabelle who loves vintage perfumes. So, they decided to make a limited, one-time distribution with those 100 antique bottles.

The very aged nature of the bottles means that there is a tiny, remote chance that they won’t all be completely, utterly perfect. I have a blog friend who ordered Lys Epona blindly, and who was disappointed to see two red dots or marks on the crystal stopper. Jovoy dealt with the situation in a professional manner and replaced the bottle, but I think my friend might have been a little less disappointed if he had known the origins and backstory for those bottles. They certainly have a unique touch and character, much like any antique, and their potential flaw simply adds to their charm in my opinion. So, if you get one that is less than perfect, remember that it is one of a very rare set that is over 80 years old!

All in all, I definitely recommend giving Lys Epona a sniff if you love lilies and/or leather. Those of you in the States can actually order a sample from Surrender to Chance to test it out, but buying it won’t be quite as easy since Jovoy does not ship outside the E.U. However, they are very fond of any “EU cousins” that you may have, so perhaps you can see if a friend will help out in terms of lending their shipping address. There is also a personal shopper option that I explain further in the Details section below. I should add that I don’t know how many bottles of Lys Epona remain, especially as it was released a few months ago, but I’ve seen enough internet interest in the scent for me to urge you to hurry if you’re serious about it. I think it’s more than just a lily scent, more than a leather, or the fraction of its parts. I think it’s an evocative journey back in time. It’s up to you whether you’re taken to a world of Celtic warriors surrounded by nature, or to that of Napoleonic cavalry officers wooing languid courtesans draped with lilies. 

Note: my sample of Lys Epona was provided to me by Jovoy Paris, but they didn’t know I was going to do a review of the fragrance. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Lys Epona is an eau de parfum that is exclusive to Jovoy Paris. It comes in a 65 ml/ 2.1 oz size, is limited in quantity, and costs €225. Jovoy does not ship to the U.S. unfortunately, but are happy to mail to any “EU cousins” (as they amusingly put it, right down to the quotes) that you may have.
Samples: In the U.S., samples are available from Surrender to Chance which sells Lys Epona starting at $9.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.
Personal Shopper Options: One option for you to consider if you’re a U.S. resident who is interested in buying Lys Epona is to use a personal shopper who goes to France every month. Shop France Inc is run by Suzan, a very reputable, extremely professional, personal shopper who has been used by a number of perfumistas. She will go to France, and buy you fragrances (or other luxury items like Hermès scarves, etc.) that are otherwise hard to find at a reasonable price. Shop France Inc. normally charges a 10% commission on top of the item’s price with 50% being required as a down payment. If you have specific questions, you can contact her at shopfranceinc@yahoo.com. As a side note, I have no affiliation with her, and receive nothing as a result of mentioning her.