“Rum is for drinking, not burning,” is the opinion of one hardcore rock group with a song by that same name. Apparently, Bertrand Duchaufour and Majda Bekkali think otherwise, judging by their fragrance Fusion Sacrée Pour Lui. It is a firmly unisex celebration of hot buttered rum that sets sail like a battleship in a sea of a thick, gooey caramel flecked by flotsam of sweet oranges, bitter neroli, lavender, coffee, vanilla, and seemingly every other element under the sun. The whole thing is then set on fire, burnt with smoke, though it does little to alter the vessel’s gourmand heart. Hours later, it washes up on vanilla sands where it rests in a haze of sweetness.
Majda Bekkali launched her eponymous perfume house — Majda Bekkali Parfums or Majda Bekkali Sculptures Olfactives — in 2010. According to her website, she did so after years of developing fragrances for luxury brands because she wished to move away from commercial imperatives and marketing approaches. Initially, Ms. Bekkali began with two fragrances for her new house but, in 2012 or 2013, she released Fusion Sacrée.
The eau de parfum comes in dual Men’s and Women’s versions, both of which were created by Bertrand Duchaufour. In my opinion, Fusion Sacrée Pour Lui is, despite its name, a very unisex fragrance, thanks to its richly gourmand heart. Speaking of names, Luckyscent calls the scent Fusion Sacrée Obscur (Lui), but that seems unusual. “Obscur” is also not part of the perfume’s title on Ms. Bekkali’s website, where it is listed as “Fusion Sacrée Pour Lui.” (For convenience and speed, from this point forth, I’ll simply call the fragrance, “Fusion Sacrée.”)
On her website, The Sculptures Olfactives, Majda Bekkali describes Fusion Sacrée as follows:
A battle of contrasting forces is at the heart of everything. A divinely balanced equilibrium.
A contrasting note which in the first place proposes its delicious, mouth-watering facet with a drop of rum and celery and an outpouring of opulent spices. Fusion Sacrée Obscur then reveals a voluptuous and velvety heart where creamy notes of white coffee and tuberose unite. The base notes are earthy, woody and resinous conferring this miraculous moment of sacred fusion with a vibrant and unforgettable aura.
According to Luckyscent, the many notes in Fusion Sacrée include:
Rum, citron, celery, sweet orange, neroli, cardamom, lavender, davana, bergamot, white coffee, tuberose absolute, cloves, geranium, sweet william pear, liquorice, benzoin resinoid, opoponax [sweet myrrh] resinoid, ambergris, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla, caramel and musk.
There are 23 notes on that list, and I’m only slightly exaggerating when I say that they all hit me at once when I put Fusion Sacrée on my skin. At once. Simultaneously. All of them! Well, all right, there is a wee bit of hyperbole, simply because the tuberose, cloves, sandalwood, and davana flower took a little longer to show up, but, honestly, I felt as though I’d been hit by a force-field of incredibly strong, multifaceted olfactory notes.
Fusion Sacrée really is that intense of an opening salvo, especially if you commit the error that I did the first time around and apply a lot. In the case of Fusion Sacrée, though, “a lot” is quite a relative thing; 3 sprays from my tiny atomizer (or the equivalent of 2 good sprays from an actual bottle) sent me reeling. You really need to get used to this scent and its concentrated richness. The second time around was better, because I expected the early blast and had steeled myself. In fact, I generally prefer really potent, strong fragrances but good God, that first time….! And even on subsequent wearings, working my way up with cautiously larger amounts and a slow sense of adjustment, even then, Fusion Sacrée is quite something.
Part of the issue is the nuclear velocity of the perfume in the opening half-hour, but I found myself equally overwhelmed by the sheer deluge of notes. I could smell a good 15 of those 23 ingredients in the mere opening seconds alone, but they don’t hit you one after another. No, they hit your nose simultaneously. The most obvious, dominant elements are burnt sugar, rum, fierce artemisia, bitter neroli, syrupy orange, green celery, amorphous spices, buttered caramel, nutty sweet myrrh, dusty cardamom and lavender. These are just the most obvious ones….
Fusion Sacrée is overpoweringly cloying, syrupy sweet, pungent, bitter, green, herbal, boozy, woody, spicy, and gourmand, all at once. My initial notes are headlined by “drunken gourmand,” in capital letters with lots of exclamation marks, and a few mutterings about “Sybil” (or multi-personality disorder). Yet, for all that Fusion Sacrée is meant to be a boozy fragrance, its core essence doesn’t translate to actual “rum” to my nose. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a lot of sweet liqueur in Fusion Sacrée, especially in its opening hour, but the dominant impression I always have is of generalized syrupy, sweet goo.
The caramel, hot buttered rum, and sticky orange sherbet congeal into a giant, dense ball. From its curves jut out other elements like little shards of coloured glass: bitter green neroli, pungent purple lavender, cream-laced coffee, and burnt black smoke, to name just a few. In fact, the hard, dense mass of diabetic sugariness throws out random notes like a disco ball. They vary in their prominence and role, making it even harder to dissect the perfume as I usually do.
There are a few notes that stand out amidst that buttered, orange-caramel syrup. On my skin, the artemisia (or wormwood) is particularly powerful with its very sharp, woody, green bitterness. Artemisia is a note that was used in absinthe liquor and, according to one Basenotes thread, is also central to Krizia Uomo, Aramis, and One Man Show fragrances where it was used for its long-lasting, intense pungency.
Here, its green forcefulness in Fusion Sacrée is matched by equal amounts of neroli. They infuse the hot buttered, diabetes-inducing goo with intense bitterness, and, yet, none of it balances out. In fact, in a strange feat, the end result feels even more cloying and sickly to me. Honestly, this odd match of green, extremely sharp bitterness with extreme sweetness may be the most difficult part of the entire scent for me. Have you ever bitten deep into the rind of an orange? If so, you know how you get that bitter oil lying thickly like a mealy layer in your mouth? Well, imagine that taste multiplied tenfold, then covered by heavy caramel, sharp bitter herbs, pungent lavender, Bourbon vanilla, and hot buttered rum. That is what Fusion Sacrée reminds me of, and I find it much worse than the perfume’s sweetness.
Other elements are tossed into the mix as well, though they are hardly as dominant on my skin. There are brief, subtle pops of geranium, usually manifesting themselves as the slightly peppered, fuzzy leaves. During one test of Fusion Sacrée, using a slightly higher dosage, there was even a moment of tart tanginess from the orange, but it was soon blanketed by the hot buttered rum. After 20 minutes, even more notes arrive. There is a lovely dose of coffee, followed by hints of black licorice, and a burst of smoke. The coffee note is smooth, creamy, but also a tad spicy, thanks to a light dusting of cardamom. I wish the it were stronger, but the coffee is an extremely subtle, small wave in the tsunami of hot, buttered, boozy, caramel, orange, artemisia and neroli.
It is probably at this point that I should repeat what regular readers know full well. I’m not particularly enamoured with the gourmand genre. I don’t have a sweet tooth when it comes to perfumery, which makes Fusion Sacrée even harder for me to deal with. In addition, my skin amplifies both base notes and sweetness as a whole, though Fusion Sacrée is clearly intended to be an over-the-top boozy gourmand on everyone. It is loved for precisely that reason, and the perfume certainly accomplishes its task well.
I may not be in Fusion Sacrée’s target audience, but I struggle with the perfume for other reasons. To be honest, this is one perfume that has too much going on even for me! It feels as though someone told Bertrand Duchaufour, “More. No, more, more, more. No, I mean it, seriously, I want MORE!” And he so responded by throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the wall, to mix one’s metaphors, to see if that would finally be enough. I would like Fusion Sacrée if the balance didn’t feel so grossly out-of-whack, with certain elements being as overpowering as a Five Alarm Fire.
The degree of ridiculous excess is clearly intentional, for there is no other way to explain it, especially from a master of finesse like Bertrand Duchaufour. Majda Bekkali must have specifically sought everything from the diabetic sweetness that hurts my teeth, to the overpowering barrage of notes that shoot out at you in the opening minutes like bullets fired from a .50 caliber rifle. All this makes Fusion Sacrée a scent that is heaven for many people. I, unfortunately, am not one of them.
Nonetheless, I fully recognize the skill behind Fusion Sacrée. For one thing, it is a very prismatic scent, something which is never easy to accomplish. As a result, the exact progression of notes has never been precisely identical on the different occasions that I have worn it. Sometimes, the nutty sweetness of the opoponax is more apparent in the opening hour, at other times the licorice, clove, and geranium. Cedar flits in and out like a darting bee, and there is always a subtle suggestion of celery that lingers as a very disorienting, odd touch.
Yet, the mass at the heart of Fusion Sacrée doesn’t change enormously until the end of the first hour. At that point, the smoke suddenly intensifies, if one can even call it smoke. The note is extremely hard to explain, but it is simultaneously a bit sulphurous, a bit like burnt plastic, and a bit like badly singed woods — all at once. The first time that I tested Fusion Sacrée, something about the scent reminded me of how really concentrated honey can feel sharp and burnt to the point of actual sulphur smoke. The second time I tested Fusion Sacrée I was reminded instead of the smell of burnt plastic. Neither description actually fits the smell perfectly, but they’re as close as I can come to convey the oddness of that “smoky” accord.
I don’t like either version. I particularly don’t like how it adds to Fusion Sacrée’s strange discordance. Diabetic sweetness, artemisia bitterness, unctuous buttered hot rum, pungent herbs, sticky orange sherbet syrup, caramel, coffee, celery, and now some sulphurous smoke. (Celery? Seriously? With everything else?! Why, for the love of God, why?!)
Then, making matters more difficult is the sudden, ghostly burst of a green tuberose that pops up. Yes, tuberose, on top of everything else. It darts about with the other tertiary notes, like the cedar and the occasional whisper of sweet myrrh. None of them are prominent or key aspects of the perfume on my skin, least of all the tuberose, but they add to the dizzying quality of the scent. God, I wanted to like Fusion Sacrée so much, and yet I frequently found myself feeling utterly queasy instead. Like, “get it off me, I feel sick” queasy. It is probably the fault of my skin, amplifying the sweetness, but Fusion Sacrée on my skin is both cloying and completely nauseating.
The perfume’s potency doesn’t help matters. This is one powerful scent, even for me with my admittedly skewed love for fragrance bombs. In the opening minutes, Fusion Sacrée wafted a good 6 inches around me with a few tiny squirts from the atomizer. To put this into context, 3 atomizer spritzes of Fusion Sacrée felt to me like the equivalent of 5 sprays of Coromandel from an actual bottle, all applied to the same area. Another equivalent example, 4 large sprays of either Hard Leather or Alahine. All of these fragrances are very potent at the start, but even a small amount of Fusion Sacrée can easily match them.
Yet, Fusion Sacrée is also imbued with a surprising airiness. A reader of the blog, Tim, who kindly gifted me with my sample of the Fusion Sacrée is a huge Bertrand Duchaufour fan. Tim coined the perfect phrase to describe the perfumer’s signature style: “heavy weightlessness.” That is precisely the situation with Fusion Sacrée. The cloud that billows out around you may feel like a ten-ton frigate, but the forcefulness of the notes belies their actual lightness. At the end of the first hour, the powerful sillage drops, and Fusion Sacrée hovers a mere 1-2 inches above the skin. (Yes, I was grateful. No, it did not help my nausea.)
Fusion Sacrée may be quite prismatic when it comes to its notes, but the perfume itself is rather linear as a whole. I frequently say that there is nothing wrong with linearity if one likes the notes in question, and I hold to that view here. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this marvel of gourmand engineering if that is your personal cup of tea. Fusion Sacrée glorifies hot buttered rum and caramel syrup to an impressive degree.
At the start of the third hour, the fragrance hovers just above the skin, but the gourmand cocktail is imbued with a growing amount of dryness. There is also a very nebulous tinge of woodiness that lurks in the shadows, though it never reads as “sandalwood” to me. At most, there is a touch of cedar. By the start of the 4th hour, Fusion Sacrée is a skin scent centered around buttered caramel, sticky orange, bitter artemisia, neroli, vanilla, and burnt notes (that are occasionally sulphurous), all on a warm, golden base.
A few hours later, all the notes lose their shape and individual distinction. They blend seamlessly into each other, as Fusion Sacrée turns into an abstract haze of golden, sticky, resinous sweetness with vanilla, smoky dryness, and a lingering but subtle vein of green bitterness. In its final moments, the fragrance is a mere coating of sweetness. All in all, Fusion Sacrée lasted a little over 11.5 hours with 3 atomizer sprays, with that number rising or dropping depending on how much more or less of the fragrance I applied. Generally, Fusion Sacrée turns into a skin scent on me around the 4th hour, though it’s easy to detect until a good number of hours later.
I seem to be in a distinct, tiny minority when it comes to Fusion Sacrée, for this is one very beloved scent. Some bloggers didn’t find the sweetness to be intolerably cloying at all, though I don’t know what their definitional standards or tastes are like when it comes to gourmand scents as a general rule. Take, for example, Ron from Notable Scents who found Fusion Sacrée to be “sweet but not overly sweet.” He added that “[t]his is a gorgeous scent which is sold as a masculine but could easily be worn by women.” One reason is that Fusion Sacrée’s “base is a snuggly mix of caramel, vanilla, and woods.”
Mark Behnke who wrote about Fusion Sacrée on CaFleureBon also enjoyed the sweetness, writing:
Fusion Sacree for Men is connected to its feminine partner by tuberose in the heart and benzoin in the base. Despite that Fusion Sacree for Men strongly displays its genetics with a deep resinous woody chest bump. Cardamom, orange, and lavender whisper across the early moments before M. Duchaufour uncorks a bottle of rum. M. Duchaufour is much too versatile a perfumer to be pigeonholed by one note but speaking solely for myself when he adds rum to the early going of a perfume he makes it always seems to work for me. It is probably why I often envision M. Duchaufour as a bit of a pirate. The boozy rum accord finally starts to be pushed aside by tuberose but the tuberose is accompanied by clove to accentuate the mentholated quality of the tuberose over the sweeter aspects. Geranium also keeps it slightly greener than you might expect from tuberose. The base begins with an unusual candied diptych as M. Duchaufour combines licorice and caramel. The bite of really good black licorice is tempered with the thick nature of caramel. This combination is so surprisingly good I look forward to its appearance every time I wear Fusion Sacree for Men. Benzoin, opoponax, ambergris, musk and sandalwood apply the finishing depth. I wore Fusion Sacree for Men on the first bitterly cold day of 2013 and it was a perfect companion under my cashmere sweater.
On Fragrantica, the vast majority of people absolutely adore the fragrance. Five reviews use the word “masterpiece,” while others opt instead for gushing raves. To give just one example of the latter:
Before Fusion Sacree, there were none; after Fusion Sacree there will be no more. I hope I have everyone’s undivided attention…This stuff is so good it made me edit my other reviews. This aroma is competitive to all the gourmand greats such as Gourmand Coquin, Ambre Naugille, etc. So many notes to choose from where do I start.. A rummy opening aggregated with extreme caramel capsized by tons of harvest. There’s also a slight smokey ingredient that I have yet to figure out. To sum up everything, Rum and Caramel headlines the scent throughout making pit stops to each note. The Rum and Caramel then races back onto the track in search of the next set of notes to tangle with. IMMEDIATE WORDS: Comforting, Smooth, Sweet, Dandy, Delicate, Delicious, Week at the knees, Will You Marry Me. It would be disrespectful to call this sublime. The word to describe this haven’t been concocted.
A woman wrote that she didn’t care if Fusion Sacrée is for men, she had to have it. Really, the fragrance is so unisex, she shouldn’t have to worry about ridiculous gender marketing. It would be like calling Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille a scent that is meant only for one gender. Nonsense! Speaking of vanilla, I should add that one chap found that note to dominate on his skin, instead of the boozy rum: “A masterpiece indeed for gourmand lovers. Very vanilla on me. I was hoping for more rum and licorice.”
I was more interested in two other comments. First, one Fusion Sacrée admirer warned that you need to go easy on the trigger when applying the perfume, which is excellent advice. Second, I was glad to see a second person notice the odd, smoky element underlying Fusion Sacrée:
Ok, this one is getting on me. A true gem I have to say. At first I wasn’t blown away by this, but after a few testing and wearings this one gets better and better. It’s so good that this will be one of my favorite fall/winter scents. And I’m not talking about the amazing gourmand vibe from the caramel and the rum, the vanilla and amber sweetness, no, what I really love is the smokiness that kicks this scent into another level. I don’t know where this bonfire smoke comes from, but I guess it’s the amber in combination with the musk that is of superb quality. This smoke melts every note into a notes trip through the whole process from beginning to end. This one makes you hunger for chilly fall days and cold winter evenings.
In the midst of Fragrantica’s love fest for Fusion Sacrée, a rare handful were distinctly unenthused:
why is this shit right here so overhyped ? it smells like celery mixed with rum. who whants to smell like that?? if you want a nice caramel scent go for a men. it beats the shit out of this one.
The other review entailed too many strings of “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”s denoting extreme boredom to be worth quoting, but the basic bottom line is that the reviewer found Fusion Sacrée to be largely generic in nature.
As you can see, my perspective on Fusion Sacrée is distinctly that of the odd man out. Perhaps it’s because my skin amplifies sweetness, or perhaps it’s because I don’t share the current obsession with syrupy gourmands. It’s probably both those things, combined with the nature of the scent itself: a discordant, chaotic barrage of notes. For me, Fusion Sacrée is not a case of “everything but the kitchen sink” because the sink actually has been tossed in as well — along with every other contradictory note in sight.
That would still be fine in many cases. I love complicated, complex fragrances, not to mention powerhouses, but there needs to be harmony and balance when you have a profusion of contradictory notes. I found neither here in the juxtaposition of cloying goo with pungent bitterness, sharp herbal elements, syrupy fruits, dessert caramels, coffee, tuberose, hot buttered rum, and a burnt plastic note that verged on sulphurous smoke. In fact, I would give anything to know how the creative process went with Bertrand Duchaufour, because I suspect his personal tastes skew towards a much more finessed approach than this explosion of excess. But over-the-top excess seems to be what the client wanted, and it’s what he delivered. In spades.
If gourmand fragrances are your passion, do not listen to a thing I say. Go order a sample of Fusion Sacrée immediately, as there is every likelihood that you will fall in love with it. If you’re a woman, then pay no heed to the “Lui” or Men’s label, as this is a fragrance that you could easily wear so long as you enjoy booziness to go with your sweetness. Plus, it is very affordable (in the skewed world of niche prices) at a “low” $125 for a 50 ml bottle.
However, if you’re one of the rare few nowadays who dislikes ultra sweet fragrances and whose skin amplifies such notes, then it should be obvious by now that Fusion Sacrée is one to avoid. You might end up huddled in a foetal position, rocking back and forth with queasiness, and whimpering Lady Macbeth’s refrain at your tainted arms, “out, damned spot! Out, I say!”
That may or may not have happened to me….