Rivers of brandy and tobacco flow out like tributaries to a sea made of spicy, crystallized ginger and dark plum molasses. An ambered wind blows, making the waves froth white peaks made of vanilla mousse, while the sky rains down cardamom, more ginger, and soft cocoa. Eventually, the brandy river dries up, leaving a sea of Christmas plum pudding that crashes onto shores of pure tobacco in a land called Enigma.
Roja Dove‘s Enigma Pour Homme is a regal, refined vision of spicy, sweet, boozy, dark and golden richness. The fragrance was released in 2013, but came to America under the name Creation-E due to legal trademark reasons. Some European sites simply call the perfume “Enigma,” which can be misleading as there is also a white-labelled women’s version, but the men’s fragrance is largely unisex in my opinion, despite its name. Enigma or Creation-E comes in two forms, an Extrait Pure Parfum version and an Eau de Parfum. This review is for the Extrait.
On his personal Roja Parfums website, Roja Dove describes Enigma as follows:
“Mysterious & Compelling – Defy Expectations”
RICH, SOFT, WARM, SPICY, POWDERY, & SENSUAL
“The mystery of the name drove me to create a fragrance that seems to be all things to all people, but itself is certain and assured, whilst creating ambiguity in others”. Roja Dove
HEART: Geranium, Heliotrope, Jasmine, Neroli, Rose
BASE: Ambergris, Benzoin, Black Pepper, Cardamom, Cognac, Ginger, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Tobacco, Vanilla.
Enigma opens on my skin with a potent wave of cognac and ginger, followed by spiced, dark fruits, more ginger, tobacco, black pepper, and cardamom. Seconds later, there is a note like the softest milk chocolate cocoa, then rich amber, a whisper of geranium, and drops of vanilla. The tiniest slivers of jasmine and a spicy, rich, dark patchouli pop up momentarily, then fall to the wayside.
At its core, Enigma’s opening bouquet is spicy ginger in a sea of expensive, heady cognac, dusted by cardamom and infused with dark, juicy, fruits, all atop an ambered base. The walloping, hefty dose of ginger feels both like the spicy, slightly biting fresh kind, and the more sweetened, crystallized variety. It is conjoined with a strong fruited accord that feels like a touch of peach has been mixed into very dark plum molasses cooked with brown sugar. I don’t know where the accord comes from, as there are no fruits listed in the notes, but I’ve tried Enigma a number of times and “Christmas plum pudding” or “ginger sugar plums” is always an immediate thought that crosses my mind. Plum puddings are made with cooked or dried fruits, a lot of ginger and some cardamom, then drenched in brandy, so the association makes some sense.
Enigma’s strong spice basket never feels like a visit to an Arabian souq because of the powerful cognac and ambered warmth. The scent is richly brown, strongly boozy, and sweet, with an almost leathered undercurrent to the resinous base. The amber never feels like ambergris on my skin, but more like a full-bodied, deep, golden warmth that anchors the scent and makes me feel as though I should be sipping from a snifter on a soft leather chair before a library in a very opulent library. On the table beside me should be a pipe, stuffed with sweetened, slightly fruited tobacco but unlit because tobacco is not a central part of Enigma’s opening minutes.
Other elements add to the vision of richness. The cardamom is very noticeable at first, and utterly lovely. On my skin, it verges on and replicates soft cocoa. While the main ginger scent keeps everything fresh and spicy instead of gourmand, Creation-E also feels as though everything has been crystallized in brown sugar. There is a definite molasses undertone running through the scent like a pulsating vein. Sometimes, it feels like caramel, thanks to the ambergris, but, mostly, it feels like brown sugar drenched in brandy.
The overall combination strongly reminds me of bits of other fragrances, all mixed together. The very first time I applied Creation-E, I took one sniff and immediately thought of Serge Lutens‘ fantastic Fille en Aiguilles. The latter has a definite ginger sugar-plum aroma atop a resinous base of brown sugar sap. Enigma feels like a super-saturated, heavy, second cousin to the Lutens fragrance, only without the latter’s strong frankincense or pine notes.
At the same time, however, Creation-E is built upon a plum pudding note with tobacco that called to mind Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille. I did a side-by-side test one day. The Tom Ford fragrance lacks Enigma’s powerful brandy note, is substantially more vanillic, has touches of beeswax, and very little ginger. However, there is a subtle plumminess underlying all that tobacco and vanilla that feels like distant kinship. In short, if the crystallized ginger plumminess of Fille en Aiguilles had a three-way, torrid, sexual escapade with the tobacco vanilla of the Tom Ford and the hefty, fruited booziness of Kilian’s Apple Brandy, the love child might be Roja Dove’s Enigma.
On my skin, the core essence of Creation-E remains largely unchanged for the first few hours. There are small notes that come and go. The hint of geranium vanishes after mere seconds, though it pops up again at the end of the first hour for a brief moment, adding a peppered, leafy, green piquancy before it disappears again. The heliotrope lurks about in the background in the opening minutes, but never really makes a proper appearance on my skin. I don’t detect any rose at all, nor neroli. After 20 minutes, the jasmine creeps into the background, but it is extremely muted, subtle, and short-lived.
The tobacco is equally subtle at first, but it grows stronger with every passing minute. I have to be honest, this was a slightly difficult note for me, and I like tobacco a lot. When I first tested Creation-E, I dabbed it on and only in a small quantity. I was hit by a very distinctive aromachemical whiff. To me, it smelled like Kephalis, a synthetic that I’ve encountered 3 or 4 times before and which Givaudan describes as follows:
Kephalis is a very versatile and rich product, used as a long lasting heart/basic note. It blends well with floral notes (jasmine, rose, violet, lavender, etc.) as well as sophisticated amber, woody-aldehydic, tobacco and masculine creations.
On the other hand, there are any number of tobacco aromachemicals on the market with woody-ambered characteristics, and I’m certainly no expert on the subject. I don’t know which one was used in Enigma, but there is no doubt in my mind that the tobacco note is chemical.
The second and third times that I tested Creation-E, I sprayed instead of dabbed, and I applied quite a bit. To my relief, the richness of the other notes drowned out that chemical harshness and left only sweetened pipe tobacco as an aroma. So quantity makes a distinct difference, at least at first, since the sharp dryness does reappear later. That said, I realise that my nose is much more sensitive to aromachemicals than most, and that the average person is completely unfazed by them, if they can even detect them at all. However, I can only recount what I smell, and I detect a tobacco whose aromachemical nature was very noticeable at times. I doubt anyone else would be bothered by it, so let’s move on.
Enigma shifts and starts to change after 30 minutes. The vanilla grows stronger, turning into a deep, frothy mousse that is really lovely. The tobacco’s aroma-chemical twinge starts to creep around the edges, but it is easy to ignore at this point, especially as the perfume turns more golden, ambered, and warm. Enigma feels almost unctuous in its beautifully rich, completely narcotic depth, as if rivers of ginger, plum molasses, and pipe tobacco had merged with small streams of creamy vanilla to flow into a sea of brandy. Cardamom, black pepper, and amber rain down from above, while a lone dove of jasmine flies over, then vanishes out of sight.
The cognac is particularly intoxicating, but not in the singular and excessive way that Kilian’s Apple Brandy manifested itself on my skin. Enigma has massive body, like the most expensive, aged liqueur can have, with layer upon layer of other elements to create a multi-faceted bouquet. Yes, there is a hefty amount of unadulterated booze on my skin, but there is also a lot more, so that it feels as though I’m wearing actual perfume, not that I’ve accidentally slipped into a vat of Calvados or Armagnac.
At the end of the first hour, Enigma is a tobacco-ginger plum pudding, dusted with more ginger, set in a sea of crème anglaise vanilla sauce, then drenched with brandy and set on fire. It’s a potent, rich bouquet with only 2 small atomizer sprays but the sillage isn’t overpowering. Initially, the Extrait pulsated out about 3 inches above the skin, but at the end of the second hour, Enigma drops to an inch above the skin. At the start of the 4th hour, it is almost a skin scent, though still extraordinarily rich and easy to detect up close.
Creation-E continues to shift by microscopic fractions. The cognac begins to fade away by the end of the 2nd hour, as the tobacco grows more powerful. By the start of the 4th hour, the booziness has vanishes almost entirely, though a lingering richness pops up occasionally at the edges for another hour. Enigma is now largely a tobacco vanilla scent with dark plummy fruits, dusted with ginger and other more amorphous spices, all atop a smooth, golden, ambered base. 4.5 hours in, the perfume turns drier and woodier in feel, centered mostly on spiced tobacco and ginger, lightly flecked by vanilla and dried fruits. It is also a complete skin scent by this point.
By the end of the 7th hour, Enigma is primarily a tobacco fragrance on my skin. It feels dry, dark, and with a nuance that is almost leathered. There is very little sweetness or vanilla, though a trace of gingered plums remains at the periphery along with a thin smear of abstract amber. To me, the tobacco smells aromachemical in nature with a harsh woodiness. Again, I doubt anyone else will feel the same way. Tiny flickers of benzoin and a vague hint of lightly powdered tonka appear in the last few hours, but they are very muted and muffled on me. In its final moments, Enigma fades away as a blur of woody tobacco. All in all, the Extrait lasted 10.5 hours on me with 2 small sprays from an atomizer (amounting to one big spray from a bottle), and almost 12 hours with more.
I very much enjoyed parts of Creation-E. The richness of the cognac, spice basket, Christmas pudding opening was marvelously intoxicating. It all felt very regal, heady, and sophisticated. While I was unenthused by the aromachemical clamour of the tobacco, that actually wasn’t my main difficulty with the scent. It was that Enigma Extrait felt a little too monolithic and unchanging. On my skin, the core essence of the Extrait was primarily some version of ginger plum molasses with tobacco, and I found that a little tiring after a while. That said, I think Enigma would be lovely to wear once in a while in the winter. It’s the sort of scent that makes you feel like dressing up in a velvet smoking jacket, putting on a silk ascot, and taking out a pipe. In short, it makes you feel a little like you’ve suddenly turned into Roja Dove himself.
There is a lot of hype, buzz, and adulation for Creation-E out there. In fact, there is so much that I rather expected the perfume to fall short. It doesn’t, for the most part, though I don’t share the wild worship for the scent that many others do. Creation-E actually suits my personal tastes much more than the famous Diaghilev, perhaps because it feels more modern or perhaps because boozy orientals are more my style. Either way, I think Enigma is definitely worth trying for anyone who enjoys a scent that is a mixture of the best parts of Fille en Aiguilles, Apple Brandy, and Tobacco Vanille. It’s absolutely unisex in that regard.
There are no blog reviews that I can find for Creation-E, but there is a lot of talk about the scent on different Basenotes threads, as well as some Fragrantica reviews. I hadn’t read any of them while I was tested the perfume, so I was interested to see that a number of people brought up Tobacco Vanille on Fragrantica. There, commentators are largely positive:
- this has the most realistic tobacco note I have ever smelled. There are comparisons to Tobacco Vanille, but to be honest it does not remind me of TV at all. The sweetness isn’t there, the spicy potpourri scent isn’t there…This is just…Well, better. [¶] To be honest, this reminds me EXACTLY of a Coca-Cola slushie from Target, with a tobacco note added…In a good way. [¶] Also, there is a lightness (but potent, make no mistake)to this that makes it wearable almost all year round, excluding extremely hot days. I could see this being worn on a cooler summer night even. [¶] Definitely, DEFINITELY full bottle worthy for me.
- The opening is similar to Root Beer Soda.
Its okay. If I compare it to the Roja Dove line, it’s better from the bunch.
Probably the only almost original scent.
The other fragrances of the Roja Dove line are knock offs, of less quality and less less appealing of Guerlain and Amouage.
- To me this fragrance centres around the cognac experience. The opening is most certainly boozy with the cognac unravelling its characteristics slowly. [¶] Milder spices such as pepper and ginger fuse together with the raw sweetness of vanilla. I also get a floral note amidst this composition. A pipe tobacco lingers throughout combining well with the wetter elements of cognac.
- THE TOBACCO VANILLE KILLER! FOLKS, IF YOU HAVEN’T TRIED THIS YET… PLEASE DO! ESPECIALLY IF YOU LIKE TOBACCO VANILLE. THIS HAS AN COGNAC TWIST TO IT, THAT’S ALL.
Perhaps the most useful assessment comes from a chap called “Taskphorce” who compares Enigma in the Extrait version that I’ve talked about here with the Eau de Parfum concentration. His review reads, in part, as follows:
The cognac is so authentic and attractive and a friend who interviewed Roja Dove informed me that Roja incorporated actual extracts from a Cognac distillery into this fragrance. The Eau de Parfum seems to hold the Cognac note throughout the entire fragrance whereas the Extrait seems to turn slightly floral in the base. Regardless, both strength’s are of high quality and the differences are insignificant. In the base, I am detecting a semi-sweet vanillic tobacco and the cognac is still lingering. I hate to say this because I respect and love Krigler but Established Cognac doesn’t compare to Creation E. The Cognac note dissipates in nearly 5 minutes with Est. Cognac. I am on hour 6 and the cognac note is holding strong. I can’t get enough of this fragrance. It has quickly climbed to the top in my top 5. I am becoming obsessed with Roja Parfums and am already plotting my next purchase. You get what you pay for and Roja Parfums are so complex, unique, and produced with the finest materials in the world, it is my opinion that they are unmatched in the industry.
On Basenotes, an early thread on Enigma has similarly positive thoughts. It opens with a brief review from “Hedonist222” who writes, in part:
(I gave the parfum extrait a thorough wearing)
It starts out with lots of ginger thats softened by cognac, musk & benzoin.
Heliotrope & cardamom are still lurking.
A while into it and all the perky notes have now evaporated and what’s left are somber notes like tobacco, benzoin Ambergris,.
These set the stage for a mellow floral accord.
Ginger remains prominent but softens as the perfume develops.
It’s a very good perfume. Completely unimposing, very smooth. Regal.
A few others agree with the description of “regal,” and one person called Enigma-E “outstanding.” On the other side of the aisle, however, someone called “Rouj” wrote that he was never impressed with Enigma to wear it out of the store.
Basenotes’ official entry for Enigma Pour Homme only has one review listed thus far. “FISS80” writes, in part:
This fragrance has an old school vibe without actually smelling dated. I can see the comparisons to TV [Tobacco Vanille] but it is an absolutely different fragrance altogether. It is much lighter and no where near as sweet. I swear I smell the neroli and bergamote all the way through its development. The tobacco and vanilla are blended extremely well and the cardamom comes through in a big way towards the end. I think that the dry down more closely resembles Spicebomb than TV. I thought and thought about what this fragrance reminds me of. Finally I got it. This brings me back to my grade school days doing arts and crafts! I believe it is the heliotrope in the opening that does this. In any case, I really like the cognac in this. To me it is this note and the heliotrope that set it apart from both of the aforementioned fragrances. That and its superb construction. Well blended, long lasting, perfect projection, and excellent longevity. 8/10 [Emphasis and bolding to names added by me.]
I love heliotrope, so I’m rather envious of his experience, as well as that of “Mick Trick” who also detected a lot of the same note. In another early Basenotes thread, he writes about the Extrait/Parfum version:
Initial thoughts from hand sample last night and full wear today. Enigma enters with a floral plume, almondy heliotrope and touch of slightly indolic jasmine and neroli combine with benzoin laced vanilla and congac to give an ever so slightly dirty boozy honey like accord. As the heart is revealed an ambery creamy sandalwood accord joins the fray and builds in strength towards the drydown where it dominates as the florals recede. During this stage where Enigma is at its sweetest it shares some similarity to Amber Narguile in its feel. Tobacco (unsmoked and fine) is in the mix and plays a supporting role, becoming more prominent during the drydown also. The drydown actually reminds me a little of a more opulent and less synthetic version of the Opus VI late drydown, but playing at a much lower volume. Basically it’s a sandalwood laced amber at this stage, fuelled by benzoin and vanilla and a touch of spice. The sweetness level drops slightly during late drydown as it hums a soulful soft ambery resinous tune, some white musks enter at this point it is incredibly delicious and alluring, one of the softest most velvety delicate things I have ever experienced. [Emphasis to names with bolding added by me.]
If you will notice, all of the scents brought up in these comparisons are unisex ones. So, if you are a woman reading this review, do not be put off by the “Pour Homme” part of Enigma’s name. If you have a taste for Orientals that are boozy, ambered, spicy, fruited, and tobacco’d in nature, you will have no problems carrying off the scent.
Creation-E is not cheap, and its American price is soon going to go up even further. Right now, a 50 ml bottle of the Extrait costs $435, €395 or £345. I’ve read that the U.S. price is going increase around the early or middle part of April by about $30 or so, if I remember correctly. If you’ve already tried Enigma Extrait and want to purchase it, now may be your time. (As a side note, I found a discounted bottle on Amazon, though there is only one left. Check the Details section at the end.) If you have wanted to test the perfume, you can order samples from OsswaldNY. If you’re in New York, Bergdorf Goodman carries the Roja Dove line, while Neiman Marcus is your best bet for other parts of the country.
Regardless of your location or country, if you love Enigma but are put off by its cost, there are a number of groups that offer perfume splits or small decants on a more affordable basis. Basenotes has a Splits section, while Facebook has a few different, perfume groups that you can join, like Facebook Fragrance Friends. However, you may need someone to recommend you to the main one, International Fragrances Split Association, that I believe is currently offering all the Roja Dove fragrances.
Is Enigma Pour Homme worth a test sniff? If you love rich Orientals with either tobacco or booziness, then absolutely. It’s very well done. Whether or not it brings you to your knees will depend very much on how you feel about ginger, plum pudding, cognac, Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille, and the price.