“A dominant theme of Leather takes center stage in this creation” — so reads the official description for Great Britain, a luxury parfum from Roja Dove that was released late last year. It’s also supposedly a chypre, according to the company’s classification, and a leather enhanced by labdanum amber and animalic notes like castoreum and civet. The descriptions had led me to anticipate something in the vein of Roja Dove’s Fetish or his fantastic M for Puredistance. My experience turned out to be quite different.
Roja Dove released several new fragrances worldwide in October, some of which had previously been exclusive to the British market. Two of those fragrances are Sultanate of Oman and 51. The first is his tribute to Oman, its Sultan, and the country’s famous silver frankincense, considered to be the best in the world. The second was made to celebrate Roja Dove’s new boutique at 51 Burlington Arcade in London and comes in masculine and feminine versions. Today, I’ll look at Sultanate of Oman and the Femme extrait version of 51.
I’m introducing a new feature or section to the site focusing, as the title suggests, on The Average, The Banal, The Bad & The Ugly. The name is a play on Sergio Leone’s famous film, “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly,” but none of the fragrances covered here rise to the level of truly “good.” Not by my standards, or in my opinion. A handful of the fragrances may, at best, be deemed “Average” or decent, but they’re a small handful and, in some cases, the classification may be relative to the abysmal character of others in the line, to the price, or something else.
Whether it’s Roja Dove, LM Parfums, MFK, or a smaller brand, they’re all capable of putting out something that is simply not worth extensive discussion, so I’m going to do things very differently in this section as compared to my regular reviews. There won’t be note lists, official descriptions, links to Fragrantica, discussion of other people’s experiences as a comparison, photos of every bottle, a long list of retail links, or anything else. I’m going to take a page out of what Luca Turin and so many other people do, and simply give my opinion in the most general, synthesized fashion possible. In some cases, it may only be a single sentence. In others, I’ll lump five or six fragrances into one passing observation about their overall character. In both cases, it will probably be because they were scrubbers or bored me into a state of total apathy.
As another year draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the best of 2015. For me, this was an iffy year for brand new releases because there weren’t a huge number of fragrances that stood out from start to finish. The exceptions to the rule were impressive or lovely but, when I went back over all the fragrances that I covered, I found the vast majority fell woefully short.
One reason stems from the hot new trends of the year. Leather was a major compositional note in 2015 or, to be more precise, the tarry, woody, forest-fire smokiness that purports to recreate the sense of “leather.” Another hot trend seemed to be a deluge of black pepper. Neither one is appealing to me, particularly since their chemical nature was usually so intrusive as to be front-and-center. Yet, that sort of excessive darkness was, in and of itself, the most common stylistic approach, one that was frequently juxtaposed next to shapeless white florals, amorphous spiciness, or some sort of limp “freshness.” The end result was that a lot of new releases smelt far too similar for me to find them distinctive, interesting, or compelling. In addition, many of them lacked the quality to warrant the higher prices that we’ve been seeing across the board.