Xerjoff XJ 1861 Naxos

The XJ 1861 Collection. Source: xerjoff.com

The XJ 1861 Collection. Source: xerjoff.com

1861 Naxos via Xerjoff's website. [Image lightly cropped by me on the sides.]

1861 Naxos via Xerjoff’s website. [Image lightly cropped on the sides by me.]

Officially, Xerjoff‘s XJ 1861 Naxos celebrates Sicily and the richness of its hesperidic traditions. In reality, I found it to be predominantly a tobacco fragrance, and a very enjoyable one at that. Prismatically complex, opulent, powerful, and rich, it’s a unisex composition that seems to take the tobacco plant from its budding flowers to its fragrant green leaves and beyond, slathering it with dark honey, lush jasmine, and bright, sun-kissed citruses, then placing it against a multi-dimensional backdrop dominated by aromatic, fresh lavender.

Yet, that is only one part of the tale because 1861 Naxos is like a kaleidoscope where the images change and realign themselves into different shapes with every click, especially in the first half of its life. Over time, the images and the notes change faster and faster, thanks to the impact of silky vanilla, dry woods, incense-like smokiness, spicy patchouli, and even some ambered booziness. The result is a bold powerhouse that has already become a big favourite with perfumistas, chosen by Basenotes readers as one of the best niche fragrances released in 2015 and frequently sold out on places like Luckyscent or Twisted Lily.

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Fragrance Recommendations: Leathers, Vetivers, Fougères & More

Source: mf.techbang.com

Source: mf.techbang.com

Every week, I get at least three or four emails from people seeking fragrance recommendations. The vast majority of them are men, but there are some women, too. Most of them are not long-time readers of the blog and have simply stumbled upon it, so they don’t know my long-time favorites that I talk about often, but a few are subscribers who seek specific suggestions. Sometimes, people start by giving me a brief idea of their tastes and/or names of prior fragrances they’ve worn. Typically, though, the information is insufficient for me to know what might really suit them, so I write back with a list of questions, trying to narrow down what notes they have issues with or love best, how they feel about sweetness or animalics, how their skin deals with longevity or projection, and what sort of power they want in both of those last two area.

Ralph Lauren Purple Label editorial ad via tumblr.com

Ralph Lauren Purple Label editorial ad via tumblr.com

What I’ve noticed is that I tend to make certain recommendations time and time again for particular genres or fragrance families. So, I thought I would share them with all of you. However, please keep in mind that these names are in response to some pretty set criteria given to me by the person in question, even though many of those factors end up being quite similar. For example, the men who like dark, bold, rich or spicy orientals all seem to want a certain sillage or “to be noticed in a crowd,” as several have put it. In contrast, most of those who want clean, crisp scents prefer for them to be on the discreet side and suitable for professional business environments. Men whose favorites are classical designer scents that fall firmly within the fougère, green, fresh, or aromatic categories (like Tuscany, Guerlain’s Vetiver, or vintage Eau Sauvage, for example) tend to want very traditional scents, even “old school” in vibe, and not something sweet, edgy, or with a twist. So, that is what I try to give them as recommendations, which means that there are a whole slew of fragrances that fall outside the category.

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Rania J. T. Habanero

Source: pinstake.com

Source: pinstake.com

Each of the fragrances of Rania J. Parfumeur showcases a different raw material, and it is the turn of tobacco in T. Habanero. It seeks to give the dark, black note the spicy fire of hot Cuban nights and the aroma of Havana’s famous cigars, but it is more complicated than that for me. Honeyed sweetness, black frankincense, Middle Eastern oud, synthetic sandalwood, and leather all play a part in T. Habanero’s dance, resulting in scent which took me to some surprising places. There is a stage where T. Habanero is a drier, deeper Killianesque Back to Black tobacco that is more suited to an aristocratic, private club in London frequented by Prince Charles and captains of industry than to a wild tango in Cuba. At other times, the scent is like Cuban cigars by way of bedouins in the Sahara, thanks to the barnyard funk of authentic, Middle Eastern oud. And, in the very end, it is a simple trip to overly smoky, arid, blackened woods. It is the last stage which is my problem.

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Slumberhouse Kiste: Southern Melodies

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.

Gone with the Wind image. Source: wildbell.com

Gone with the Wind image. Source: wildbell.com

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.

1935 photo by Walker Evans,  Library of Congress FSA/OWI Collection, via southernstudies.org

1935 photo by Walker Evans, Library of Congress FSA/OWI Collection, via southernstudies.org

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.”

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