There’s a romantic garden at the heart of Violette Noyée from Sultan Pasha Attars, similar to the one in Guerlain‘s vintage Apres L’Ondee. It’s a garden filled with sweet, fresh flowers, laden with dew in the cool morning light, unfurling amidst green vegetation, and then blooming with lush abandon. Violette Noyée (hereinafter spelled without the accent) means “drowned violet,” but that is only one of the many elements at play in this rich, complex tableau. Lilacs, iris, mimosa, jasmine, heliotrope, a wonderful recreation of hyacinths, and other flowers grow far and wide, all set against a rich tapestry of greenness, wet earth, and dark musks. A cool winter light shines upon them, slowly turning warm and golden. Eventually, an ambered haze falls over the garden, first encasing the flowers, then erasing them in waves of brown velvet and musky ambered sweetness. It’s a fragrance that is quite different from Apres L’Ondee in its particular details, its feel, and its development, but the same romanticism is at play in both fragrances, which makes the attar a great alternative for fans of the discontinued Guerlain fragrance.
Otherworldly, alien, haunting, captivating, and mesmerizing, Thebes G1 from Sultan Pasha Attars brings Guerlain‘s famed Djedi back to life in the most opulent fashion, resulting in a fragrance that turned my head from the first sniff.
There are actually two versions of Thebes, G1 and G2, and they’re extremely different, in my opinion. One I loved; one I actually loathed for its first two hours, recoiling until its surprising subsequent transformation led to a truce and appreciation. That said, much of my initial response to G2 stemmed from personal tastes. I think that it’s bound to be a huge hit with people who adore classic 1950s-1970s Chanel, Lanvin, Carven, and Balmain-style vintage fragrances, whether their cool green florals, their minimalistic, austere aldehydic chypres, or their animalic, floral vetiver-leathers.
I’ll cover both versions in this review, but I want to emphasize Thebes G1 because its first 6 hours are like nothing that I’ve encountered. The more I wore it, the more spellbound and obsessed I became. For those 6 hours, Thebes G1 exerts a strange power over me that grows each time I wear the fragrance, spreading its tentacles deep, binding me with its strangeness and its unearthly beauty, and transporting me to alien worlds. The rest of the fragrance is well done, a Bandit-style, musky, animalic, butch leather immersed in smoky vetiver, but, the first half of Thebes G1 truly blew me away. If one could confine a fragrance to certain stages and were I the sort to ever to limit myself to one modern fragrance as a signature, this one would be extremely high on the list, if not close to the top.
Al Lail is a new attar from Sultan Pasha Attars, a heady and heavy floral oriental enveloped in a golden muskiness that hums like a deep bass, powerful and throaty. At times, it reminds me of the sorts of thing Amouage used to do 20 or 30 years ago, back when it released fragrances like Gold.
Sometimes, there are happy surprises when you test a fragrance. Fougere du Paradis and Pure Incense both took me outside of my normal comfort zones and, much to my astonishment, the new environment actually turned out to be wonderful. It was the last thing that I had expected. “Pure incense” usually ends up being a “Catholic High Mass,” liturgical fragrance like Avignon, and I dislike the attendant dustiness, soapiness, and coldness that usually shows up. As for lavender, the foundational element of a fougère, I’ve hated it since childhood and was actually phobic about it until just a few years ago. (I’ve now progressed to the “wary” category, where it strongly depends on how the plant is handled.)
But Sultan Pasha has tweaked the traditional settings for both genres, and it’s made all the difference. Fougere du Paradis transports you to a bucolic pastoral setting where the lavender is bisected by verdant, grassy fields, piney elemi, and soft herbs under a warm sun. When night falls, the olfactory landscape turns dark, smoky, earthy, leathery, and immensely resinous in a way that is reminiscent of Bogue‘s much admired, limited-edition, lavender-leather fragrance, Cologne Reloaded. Pure Incense is also different than the norm. Instead of plumes of cold, clean, dusty, white smoke evoking High Mass at the Vatican (or a church crypt), this is incense by candlelight: golden, warm, resinous, and cozy. So, let’s look at each one in-depth.