There is an exciting, bright new talent on the perfume scene, John Biebel, a man who reminds me a bit of Slumberhouse‘s Josh Lobb in his creative, bold, unusual, and very modern voice, a man who has quietly released two of the most accomplished and striking fragrances of 2017 and a third pretty one. They demonstrate a remarkably deft mastery of complex fragrance structures, an eye for good quality raw materials, and an innate talent but, above all else, his fragrances feel authentically original. Like Mr. Lobb (and also Serge Lutens), Mr. Biebel has the rare ability to combine unusual notes or aromas that might sound odd on paper but, thanks to his talent and skill, come across in the most interesting ways that leave you sniffing your arm again and again, wondering why no-one had thought of the idea before. At other times, though, he takes a classical composition and manages to make it feel modern and fresh but also dramatic. In both instances, I think that the result is bound to be somewhat polarizing, but then original, thought-provoking, impactful, and sometimes challenging fragrances usually are.
Gone with the Wind and Light in August, Kiste takes you straight into the heart of the American deep South. It’s the latest fragrance from Josh Lobb of Slumberhouse, released today without fanfare or advance press, and it is utterly beautiful. In fact, it is my favorite creation from Slumberhouse to date, and the first one that I would buy for myself.
Kiste is a deeply evocative fragrance, but I can’t make up my mind if it evokes Gone with the Wind or one of William Faulkner’s set pieces. The meticulously balanced composition has the genteel qualities of Tara, conjuring images of Scarlett O’Hara sipping sweet tea and eating a peach cobbler on the plantation veranda, as Rhett Butler smokes a honey-laden cheroot and takes a swig of bourbon under a honeysuckle tree.
Yet, Kiste also has an underlying ruggedness, a pronounced muskiness, and a tiny streak of masculine rawness as well, even though the fragrance is far too perfectly balanced for it to ever verge on brutish strength. Something about the mix creates a sense of underlying earthy darkness, subtle though it may be. But it’s enough to create a parallel image that is far removed from the sun-dappled sweetness of Gone with the Wind.
This other side of Kiste evokes the darker, grittier world of William Faulkner’s South (or Robert Flaherty’s Louisiana) where things are less pristine, less simple, less a land of sweet tea and peach pie. Here, the muskiness and earthiness that were such a big part of Light in August abound. The more animalistic strains of honey, the sensuous muskiness of a fleshy peach, the rawness of tobacco spittoon juice, and even spiced, dark earth all strain at the leash, threatening to spill over and darken Tara’s summer light like an eclipse. In the end, they don’t. What triumphs is a creamy sweetness and golden warmth that tame the musky darkness, as though the South’s gentler side had overcome. The result is so comforting, so delicious, I feel like saying, “Bless my stars,” and “Frankly, my dear, I do give a damn.”
Von Eusersdorff is a Dutch-based perfume house that is run by the descendents of German immigrants with roots dating back to the 15th century and who are now inspired by the vibrancy of New York City. According to the company’s website, the original Von Eusersdorffs ran an apothecary for three centuries, “dealing in rare perfume materials, spices and herbs.” The brand was reborn in 2010 as “Von Eusersdorff New York” under the direction of Camille Henfling-Von Eusersdorff, and its five eau de parfums finally became available in America a few months ago after being European exclusives.
I first tried a few of the fragrances last year at Jovoy, but didn’t have the time to give the full range a thorough assessment. Finding the scents in America turned out to be impossible, despite the “New York” part of their name. Then, several months ago, a very thoughtful, generous reader, “Petra,” kindly sent me samples of all the fragrances from German. About six weeks later, the perfumes became available in America, first at Twisted Lily and now at Indigo Perfumery. So, I thought it might be useful to briefly cover four of them — Classic Mimosa, Classic Orange, Classic Myrrh, and Classic Vetiver — leaving the fifth one, Classic Patchouli, for a comparative review with Lorenzo Villoresi‘s Patchouli.
A ball of orange, green and gold, dripping with exotic juices from an orchard before being swathed in Russian leather and amber. Soleil de Jeddah from Stéphane Humbert Lucas often feels as bright as the sun it was named after, but there is a slow eclipse as dark, slightly smoky leather casts its shadow over its bright heart.
Soleil de Jeddah is a 2013 parfum extrait from Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 (hereinafter just referred to as “SHL 777” or “777“). All the fragrances are created by Monsieur Lucas, who used to be the in-house perfumer for SoOud and Nez à Nez. Up to now, the 777 line was exclusive to Europe, Russia, and Middle Eastern, but there is good news. The complete SHL 777 line should be coming to America in a few days, including the stunning amber monster, O Hira, that was previously contractually limited to Harrods and to Printemps, and the 2013 iris-amber-heliotrope Khol de Bahrein.
The new 2014 releases should also be available, such as the highly original cherry-latex-almond-cedar-oud Qom Chilom, the immortelle gourmand, Une Nuit à Doha, and the Cambodian oud, smoke and leather, Oud 777. The scents will be exclusive to Luckyscent and Osswald NYC. I have samples of the line, thanks to the generosity and kindness of Monsieur Lucas, and Soleil de Jeddah is the last in my series. (Rose de Petra was accidentally omitted from my package.)
As a side note, it is Monsieur Lucas who takes all the photos of the perfume bottles that I have shown in this series, and I think the one for Soleil de Jeddah may be one of the prettiest images that I’ve seen for a fragrance in a long time.
Soleil de Jeddah is a pure parfum with 24% perfume concentration that is described in the press materials provided to me as follows:
Bakelite of pulverized amber.
A fragrance both dignified and aphrodisiac.
Solar fragrance, luminous, bright, respectful reference to the holy city.
Lemon – Roman Chamomile – Osmanthus
Iris Root – Amber – Earthy Notes
Iris Butter – Russian Leather – Vanilla from Madagascar.
Regular readers will know by now that, as with other SHL 777 fragrances, the official list is merely a nutshell synopsis. I’ll spare you the details of my now routine (and very comedic) email exchanges with Monsieur Lucas, where I tell him all the other things I smell in the perfume and ask what is missing from his official list. Suffice it say, he is a very kind and patient man, and we’ve had a good laugh about my OCD obsession with details.
The actual note list for Soleil de Jeddah is incredibly long. These are just the main elements:
Osmanthus, Roman chamomile, Acacia mimosa (Fleur de Cassie), genet (Broom), lemon, mandarin, Sicilian bergamot, iris butter, iris concrete, jasmine, carnation, Indian patchouli, Russian leather (Isobutyl quinoleine and birch wood), oakmoss, civet, musk, styrax, labdanum amber, benzoin, and Madagascar vanilla.
Monsieur Lucas described Soleil de Jeddah to me as a perfume with a powerful citrus opening, followed by a strong floral heart, above a persistent, dark, intensely leathered base that is imbued with mousse de chene or oakmoss. He visualises it as a perfume that a woman would wear to a ball, with a long, flowing gown whose open back exposes sensual skin, all worn with a “panoply of jewels” and furs. I can see his vision and understand it, but, for me, Soleil de Jeddah is more akin to a glowing ball of yellow and orange centered on a massively concentrated citric and fruity heart, above a leathered base flecked with animalic civet.
Soleil de Jeddah opens on my skin with juicy apricots that are tangy with jamminess, followed by very tart, sour, zesty lemon, then iris, more iris, a light dusting of iris powder, chamomile, and an odd woodiness. There are leather nuances and a touch of smokiness, but the overall impression is of brightness. (I wrote in my notes, “bright, bright, BRIGHT!”)
Osmanthus often smells of apricots, with a leathery undertone, but flower in Soleil de Jeddah is highly imbued with other fruits as well. The result is a mixed osmanthus note with a concentrated feel that I’ve never experienced before. It reminds me of Black Gemstone‘s dense, tangy lemon curd, only here, the citrus is accompanied by equally concentrated apricots and oranges as well. Just as in Black Gemstone, the fruits in Soleil de Jeddah have been heavily amplified by a jammy, purple patchouli, but the main sensation is of tartness, not syrupy sweetness. It is a saturated explosion of tangy zestiness that is fresh, crisp, heavy, sweet, and sour, all at once.
It also strongly reminded me of something else, and, for the longest time, I couldn’t place it. Initially, the overall effect made me think a little of a tart Jolly Rancher candy infused strongly with iris and a touch of chamomile. But that wasn’t really it. There was more going on. Then it came to me: the green tartness resembled a kiwi and pineapple mix, with perhaps a tiny touch of cassis or black currant. At least, the first time around. On two subsequent tests, the zingy, tart, tangy fruitiness consistently smelled like green mangoes. It is exactly like the very concentrated, potent, heady mix in Neela Vermeire‘s bright mango floriental, Bombay Bling. I tried them side-by-side at one point, and yes, I am wafting green mangoes. I cannot explain it at all.
In all my tests, however, the multi-faceted fruit accord is always cocooned in iris above a slightly leather base. The iris smells wet, rooty, woody, cool, and lightly powdered all at once. The leather base is dark, thick, and, initially, lightly smoked, with flecks of a dry woodiness that reminds me of tree bark.
Many fragrances attempt to recreate the impression of “leather” through other notes. As the Perfume Shrine explains, “[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. The Perfume Shrine adds:
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!
While some of that description applies to what I smell in Soleil de Jeddah, my nose seems to read the leather more as “birch tar,” probably because that is how I am used to “Russian leather” being replicated. The note here is very similar to the leather in Caron‘s Tabac Blond and Chanel‘s Cuir de Russie, but Monsieur Lucas said only a little birch was used in the fragrance and that the main elements in the base are smoky styrax resin and isobutyl quinoline. Still, on my skin, there was a definite streak of woodiness in one of my tests of Soleil de Jeddah that I interpreted as “birch” bark shavings.
It’s an unusual combination when taken as a whole. The iris with the tart, tangy fruits and chamomile stands out as it is, but I have to admit that the “birch” wood totally threw me the first time around. Its dry woodiness and smokiness feels a bit strange in conjunction with apricot-kiwi-pineapple (or mango). And, yet, somehow it works. On some levels, Soleil de Jeddah reminded me of a super concentrated, heavy, more powerful cousin to Creed‘s cult hit, Aventus. The fruits are completely different, but the tangy, juicy, citric, lightly smoked feel underscored by birch leather is the same. Soleil de Jeddah is more dense and complex though, with constant streaks of chamomile and iris.
Those last two notes are soon overshadowed as the leathered base grows smokier and more powerful. The iris consistently fades on my skin after 20 minutes, and is never replaced by the other floral notes on the list. Carnation? Not on me. Jasmine? Non plus. Mimosa? Only occasionally, in the background, and in the most muted way imaginable. For the most part, Soleil de Jeddah’s main bouquet on my skin is consistently some fluctuating mix of apricots, oranges, lemon curd, green mango/kiwi/pineapple, chamomile, and jammy patchouli, all over the smoky leather base made up of styrax, birch, and isobutyl quinoline.
It’s an intensely concentrated, deep, strong mix but there is a surprising weightlessness to it. Despite the richness of its notes, Soleil de Jeddah doesn’t feel opaque or dense, and the sillage is generally average on my skin. 2 large spritzes from my atomizer, amounting to one good spray from a proper bottle, gave me a soft cloud with 3 inches in projection at first. Using 3 spritzes expanded the radius by another inch. Yet, in both cases, the sillage dropped at the start of the 2nd hour, and Soleil de Jeddah lay 1-2 inches above the skin. It turned into a skin scent roughly 4.75 hours in, which is much less time than some of the other SHL 777 fragrances that I’ve tried. Still, for those first few hours, Soleil de Jeddah has good sillage, and feels particularly strong up close due to the saturated, rich nature of the notes.
In all my tests, Soleil de Jeddah starts to transition into its second phase at the end of the 3rd hour. A powdery vanilla arrives to diffuse both the smokiness of the styrax resin in the base and the tartness of the fruits up top. It casts a thin blanket over the notes, softening them through the lens of a dry vanilla. As in a few of the SHL 777 fragrances, the note is not so much powdered or sweet as grainy and sandy; it’s almost more textural at times than actual vanilla, if that makes any sense. Soleil de Jeddah is still sharp and rich up close, but it lacks the same degree of concentrated, thick juiciness in its fruits, and the woodiness has disappeared.
The leather remains, however. In the majority of my tests, the apricot-orange-mango accord takes a step back, letting the smoky Russian leather and vanilla slowly take over center stage. Tiny flickers of chamomile continue to lurk about, while the amber begins to stirs in the base. It doesn’t smell like ambergris (which is what First in Fragrance mistakenly lists it as), nor like labdanum. Rather, it is merely a soft, golden haze which adds warmth to the scent. The jammy, purple patchouli occasionally appears in its own right as an individually distinct note next to the apricot-orange-lemon-mango accord, but, generally, it melts into the fruits. Once in a blue moon, I think I may smell a brief pinch of mimosa in the powderiness, but it is probably the power of suggestion.
At the end of the 7th hour, Soleil de Jeddah is a blur of black Russian leather and abstract, tart fruits, all lightly powdered with vanilla and cocooned in a soft, golden warmth. There is a civet-like sharpness to the scent, along with a lingering touch of sweetness that made me wonder if there was honey in Soleil de Jeddah. Monsieur Lucas says there isn’t, but the sweetness has a definite animalic sharpness that seems to go beyond mere civet on my skin. Whatever the source of the note, Soleil de Jeddah’s leather has a touch of skanky dirtiness underlying it.
The leather eventually fades away, and Soleil de Jeddah’s final drydown on my skin consists of tart fruitiness with vanilla and civet. There are touches of jammy patchouli which occasionally pop up, but very little remains of the birch, isobutyl quinoline, or woodiness. There is no powder, and Soleil de Jeddah isn’t even really ambered any more, either.
In its final moments, the perfume is a mere blur of dry, semi-tart fruitiness with a touch of vanilla and some lingering sharpness from the civet. All in all, Soleil de Jeddah consistently lasted over 10 hours on my skin. With 2 spritzes, I thought it was about to die at the end of the 9th hour, but the perfume lingered on tenaciously for a total of 10.75 hours. With 3 spritzes, Soleil de Jeddah lasted just under 12 hours, really more like 11.75.
I could not find any comparative reviews to show you how others see the scent. On Fragrantica, where Soleil de Jeddah is categorized as a “leather,” the perfume’s entry page has no comments at this time. However, one of my readers, “Lady Jane Grey,” owns the scent and shared her experiences in the comment section of another one of my SHL 777 reviews. There, she wrote about how Soleil de Jeddah was 2 perfumes in 1 on her skin, changing its character from one occasion to the next:
Jeddah smells differently worn on the same spot (left wrist) – when I tested at Harrods (mid afternoon) it was fruity and bright and happy, a spring scent entirely with a golden agarwood note in the back. Spritzed in the evening on the same spot the oud has that medical note, which in fact I quite like, because I find it calming. The scent is sweet and creamy..
Soleil de Jeddah has no oud, so I suspect the isobutyl quinoline and birch may be responsible for the woodiness that she is detecting.
For another blogger, the charming Christos of Memory of Scent, a brief test of Soleil de Jeddah in Switzerland’s Theodora Parfumery was all about the bright fruits. His short synopsis reads:
777 Stéphane Hubert Lucas Soleil de Jeddah: high end, high price, Middle East oriented house. This however, 3 hours after being sparyed on a blotter, feels like it is dripping fruity juices, in the best possible way, coming from someone who doesn’t like fruity fragrances. And all this with a touch of leather and ambergris! Very interesting!
I don’t generally like fruity fragrances, either, but I share his view that Soleil de Jeddah is a very interesting take on it, thanks to the smoky Russian leather and the other accords.
While Soleil de Jeddah’s strong backbone of fruitiness isn’t my personal style, I think the perfume will be a hit for those who are looking for a more adult, polished, original take on fruity fragrances. Those who adore very bright, tangy, sunny orientals like Bombay Bling will enjoy the similar vibe here, while the inclusion of smoky leather, animalic civet, and soft ambered warmth should reassure those who aren’t into “fruit cocktails,” as one friend of mine calls the category. And, who knows, you may even be lucky enough to experience the plethora of floral elements included in the scent, though they never really appeared on my skin. Finally, if you’re a fan of Aventus‘ mix of tangy-sweet fruits with birch leather, you may very much enjoy the richer, more concentrated SHL 777 take on the theme, especially if the Creed perfume doesn’t last on your skin.
Soleil de Jeddah is priced in the middle of the SHL 777 range. In Europe, it costs €235 for a 50 ml bottle of pure parfum that has 24% concentration. I don’t have the official American pricing rate, but I believe Osswald will sell it for $309. So, it’s not at the high-end represented by the magnificent monster amber, O Hira, but it’s also not at the “cheap” level of the lovely iris-amber-heliotrope, Khol de Bahrein, or the gourmand immortelle-marmalade-tobacco, Une Nuit à Doha.
In short, if you’re looking for a leather fragrance with a twist, or if you enjoy bright, tangy fruits whose rich juices feel as though they’re dripping off the vine onto your skin, give Soleil de Jeddah a sniff.
Disclosure: Perfume sample courtesy of Stéphane Humbert Lucas. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.