Aeon Perfume Aeon 001

There’s a new mystery on the perfume scene, a fragrance called Aeon 001. It’s an eau de parfum that is described as an “experimental” vetiver and it was made by a famous perfumer whose name will be kept secret until the limited number of bottles have all been sold. I’m not a huge vetiver lover but I’m a sucker for a mystery, particularly one that is said to involve resins, spices, and white flowers, so I ordered a sample.

"Ethereal" by Spinella Art. (Direct website link embedded within.)

“Ethereal” by Spinella Art. (Direct website link embedded within.)

Many parts of Aeon 001 made me nod appreciatively and smile. It merged several perfume genres and families, glimmered with complexity, and was far from the hardcore vetiver soliflore that I had expected. At one point, it was primarily a modern animalic chypre in the vein of Bogue‘s stellar Maai, albeit a tame, baby cousin to that scent. At another stage, it was a vetiver leather oriental. At all times, though, and from the very first sniff, I thought that Aeon 001 bore the inimitable style of Bertrand Duchaufour at his best, from the use of one of his favorite notes to his trademark style of creating perfumes with paradoxical bold airiness or impactful, dense lightness.

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La Via Del Profumo Oakmoss (“Tarzan”)(“Muschio di Quercia”)

For the next few days, I’d like to take you a trip around the world, starting with a visit to Tarzan in a forest of vetiver green before going to the Sahara where bedouins travel on camels in an oud caravan and finishing in Cuba where men drink coffee, smoke cigars and wear spicy cologne. It’s a journey that was actually created in Italy by the master perfumer, AbdesSalaam Attar (“Dominique Dubrana“) of La Via del Profumo. The fragrances will be Oakmoss (nicknamed “Tarzan”), then Oud Caravan No. 3. and Cuba Express. Today, we look at the first of those.

Source: pixgood.com

Source: pixgood.com

Oakmoss or “Muschio di Quercia” was very first fragrance AbdesSalaam Attar ever made, and it’s still one of his most popular. In my interview with him, AbdesSalaam shared that it was originally an attar, not an eau de parfum with alcohol as it is now, and called it “Tarzan’s perfume,” a telling sign of his inspiration and vision for the scent. (I love the nickname, so that’s primarily what I’ll call the scent from this point forth.) On his website, AbdesSalaam elaborates on Tarzan’s style, its compositional structure, and the one modern ingredient which he used in order to create a bridge between modern and classical perfumery. I’ve taken the liberty to format his sentences into paragraphs for reasons of space, and they read in relevant part as follows:

Quercia or Oakmoss. Source: La Via del Profumo website.

Quercia or Oakmoss. Source: La Via del Profumo website.

Oak Moss is the ideal scent for interpersonal exchanges, either informal in your spare time or professional for your work. This perfume, actually, allows you to propose your personality in a sensual way but without being provoking

The delicately woody aroma of the sandalwood, and the almost human note of the Oak Moss, make it at the same time intriguing and reassuring – in one word charming. Although the composition of Oak Moss is a classical one (Vetyver, Sandalwood, Oak Moss), its perfume stands out for its refined sobriety and although it is a perfume for men (Tarzan) it is most loved by the women who like masculine fragrances, who will wear it for a specific goal: to impress the people around them, wearing an aura of woody notes that emanate the quiet strength and stability of the great trees. […] Put on the back of your hands, it will spread all around you in fragrant waves, thus reviving the technique of the ‘perfumed glove’ of the French court. Oak Moss can be easily customized by adding some drops of patchouli, vanilla, incense, tuberose, or of the preferred fragrance.

‘Oak Moss’ contains one of the new scents of the classical perfumery: the vetyver acetate, obtained from the chemical transformation of the natural vetyver. This is my only concession to the modern perfumery and makes ‘Oak Moss’ an ‘olfactory bridge’ between the perfumes of yesterday and the future ones, exclusively natural and holistic.

AbdesSalaam Attar generally doesn’t give a complete list of notes for his scents, only a nutshell synopsis but, based on what I smelled on my skin, I’d add a few things to the ingredients mentioned in the description, like patchouli and labdanum amber.

Source: fvcgeography.wordpress.com

Source: fvcgeography.wordpress.com

Tarzan opens on my skin with oakmoss, vetiver, patchouli, and a hint of labdanum’s golden warmth, all swirling together to create a deep, foresty earthiness. It feels like humus, the dark earth festooned with wet leaves, budding green sprouts, gnarled roots, springy moss, and mushroom-like sediment. Minty vetiver lies on top in an emerald layer, while a quiet, balsamic, resinous darkness stirs underneath.

Source: gdefon.com

Source: gdefon.com

For the first five minutes, it’s very similar to the opening of Oriza‘s Chypre Mousse, though there are differences. Tarzan is less herbal, earthy, barely fungal, and not at all strewn with violets or their leaves. It’s brighter, less otherworldly, and more traditional, with a balance that skews towards minty vetiver on my skin, instead of moss and mushrooms. In fact, the moss feels like an abstract and heavily refined note, a swirling suggestion instead of a solidly concrete, dense blanket. It’s also a fresher sort of greenness than the sort of mineralized, sometimes fusty or musty, grey lichen moss that you’d find in many vintage chypres.

Haitiian vetiver grass. Source: astierdemarest.com

Haitian vetiver grass. Source: astierdemarest.com

10 minutes into its development, Tarzan begins to shift on my skin. The vetiver grows stronger, emitting constant ripples of mint. That last part is due primarily to my skin chemistry which tends to amplify the note, as well as its minty side. I cannot stress this enough, my skin does odd things with vetiver, particularly the Haitian sort that AbdesSalaam loves to use in his oriental compositions. Whenever a fragrance has a substantial amount of vetiver, my skin amplifies it to the point of overshadowing much else and, to my dismay, almost always turns it into either fresh mint or smoky mint. I’m really not fond of the note as a core element in my fragrances which is the reason why I struggle with all vetiver soliflores, but it is an issue of my skin’s idiosyncratic chemistry and not something that others commonly experience. Please keep that in mind.

As the vetiver blooms, it intertwines with the mossy greenness to form Tarzan’s core essence, but other things are happening under that rich cloud. Occasional flickers of leathery, chocolate-like patchouli peek out, accompanied by fresh grass and what I’d swear was a touch of hay once in a while. A subtle, undefined spiciness weaves in and out, perhaps from the patchouli, while a growing haze of soft warmth appears to lie over the whole thing as if the vetiver were dappled by sunshine.

That last part is key because it distinguishes the vetiver in Tarzan from that in many other fragrances. This is not the crisp, mineralised note in scents like HermèsTerre d’Hermes, the smoky vetiver of Oriza‘s Vetiver Royal Bourbon, or the purely earthy vetiver of Olivier & Co.‘s Vetiverus. Yes, it’s woody vetiver, but it’s also simultaneously the grassy sort and a heavily refined, almost clarified vetiver that is surprisingly warm and sunny, too. At times, it’s even got a hint of sweetness as well. (If only my blasted skin didn’t make it minty above all else.)

As the first hour draws to a close, Tarzan is primarily (minty) woody vetiver with spicy patchouli in a warm green cocoon. It really doesn’t smell like oakmoss, per se, the humus-like vibe has vanished, and so has the resinous darkness in the base. The thing I really enjoy, though, is a mysterious leathery earthiness that smudges the vetiver’s edges. It first appeared as a tiny flicker about 20 minutes into Tarzan’s development, but becomes really noticeable at the 90-minute mark. It’s not like black truffles, porcini mushrooms, labdanum, patchouli, leatheriness, or sandalwood, but something ineffable that has small traces of all of them combined. Actually, it reminds me of an almost purified oud because there is a whisper of almost curried sweetness that snakes around under the wooded, earthy spiciness. It works so beautifully with the vetiver that I really wish there were more of it, but it is merely a hushed breath on my skin.

Source: freewallpaperfullhd.com

Source: freewallpaperfullhd.com

From afar, and for hours to come, Tarzan smells primarily of spicy, minty, woody vetiver with flickers of muted earthiness, abstract mossiness, and sunny warmth. It’s a much deeper scent than that description might lead you to believe because it feels as though layers of all sorts of greenness were placed one atop the other, conjoined by earthy and spicy fillings, to create one inseparable whole. It’s not my personal thing due to the vetiver and mint reasons I described above, but I think Tarzan would be very sexy on the right skin. It’s that mesmerizing whisper of sweet, spicy, almost “oud”-like wood and earthiness that would draw me back again and again to sniff this on someone’s neck.

Source: thegraniteexpo.com

Source: thegraniteexpo.com

Tarzan’s main contours never change substantially and it’s a very linear scent on my skin except for its smaller nuances. The earthiness retreats to the sidelines after 2.5 hours; the warmth and sweetness grow quite pronounced near the end of the 8th hour; and, in its final stage, a soft creaminess arrives to coat the vetiver. It must be from the sandalwood but, whatever the cause, the velvety creaminess of the vetiver is really pretty.

Tarzan fades away in much the same way, ending 12.5 hours from its start. It’s an astonishing amount of time for an all-natural fragrance, particularly on my wonky skin which rarely holds onto natural scents for long. Perhaps it’s due to the use of “vetyver acetate, obtained from the chemical transformation of the natural vetyver,” but whatever the reason, Tarzan has excellent longevity. The projection and sillage surprised me, too, particularly as most AbdesSalaam scents are inordinately discreet on my skin. Using 4 smears equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle, Tarzan opened with 3 inches of projection. It dropped to 2 inches after 20 minutes, then 1 inch after 2.5 hours, but what surprised me was that it remained there for the next 5 hours. Tarzan only turned into a true skin scent on me at the start of the 8th hour. Again, my skin amplifies vetiver, but that’s still an unusual amount of time, particularly for a natural fragrance.

Luca Turin via arabia.style.com

Luca Turin via arabia.style.com

Tarzan or Oakmoss has generally received very positive reviews. Luca Turin briefly talked about the scent back in 2005 in a piece quoted on the La Via del Profumo website. After trying a sampler of scents, Mr. Turin wrote that Oakmoss was one of his favorites:

My favourites are Arabia (Damascus rose-castoreum), Muschio di Quercia, a dry, uncompromising oakmoss, and Legno di Nave, a very nice woody fragrance. All are very skilful, none heavy, trite or overegged. Indeed, many feel surprisingly modern, showing that there may be more life left than I thought in the pre-chemistry tradition. [Emphasis to perfume name added by me.]

On Basenotes, almost everyone likes Oakmoss, too. There are 11 reviews, 9 of which are positive, while 2 are neutral, stemming largely from of the woodiness of the scent. “Darvant” has a detailed analysis about Tarzan’s layers (which include an “incensey” quality on his skin), says that it is one of his favorite vetivers, and concludes with a “buy it” recommendation:

"Cushion Moss on Wet Forest Floor" by DragonflyHunter on Flickr. (Website link embedded within.)

“Cushion Moss on Wet Forest Floor” by DragonflyHunter on Flickr. (Website link embedded within.)

Muschio di Quercia is another great favorite of mine among the AbdesSalaam Attar Profumo’s natural oily creations. A virile traditional fresh-aromatic mossy chypre. Muschio di Quercia is an exceptional vetiver/sandalwood accord (over an obscure dark-mossy base–real animal moss beyond the IFRA inhibitions) and probably one of my two-three favorite vetivers of the worldwide olfactory panorama. All is natural, incensey, realistic, marvellously boise (but extremely wearable and finally subtle). The note of vetiver is (especially along the first stage) really earthy, wild and mossy/incensey in a dark boise way conjuring me immediately the first Etro Vetiver’s formulation (also Etro Sandalo comes in mind at once). I feel in the air the aroma of deep dark forest, it seems to catch dry leaves, oakmoss, musk, tree trunks, barks, dry woodsy berries, woods, earth, hints of resins and misty dust overall combined in to a marvellously realistic olfactory concert of forests fruits. The perfume itself is well crafted for sure, extremely measured and balanced yet elegant and comforting. The aroma is never too much heavy or oppressing, the vetiver is woody for sure although I would not define Muschio di Quercia as a properly “fresh”-woody vetiver. Not so much to add to describe this marvellous composition. Buy it guys.

Others feel the same way, talking about how it’s a full “bottle worthy” fragrance that evokes the great outdoors warmed by sunshine, or is simply a very “satisfying” woody vetiver with high quality ingredients. “Alfarom” and “Flathorn” write respectively and in relevant part:

  • it is mainly a vetiver centered composition. After the initialy mossy-dark green opening, the fragrance evolves into a simple, old fashioned yet extremely satisfying fresh-woody vetiver base that would make the happiness of any vetiver freak out there. [¶] Well crafted with high quality natural ingredients. Totally endorsed.
  • This one is much warmer, woodier and grassier [… than real oakmoss]. And wonderful. As Quarry said it is a walk outside in sun-warmed earth, fields and woods. I love naturalistic fragrances, and this one, with it’s warm earth vibe, feels very easy-going and relaxing in the same way an actual walk might.
    Other reviews mentioned green, but it has little green ambiance to me. It’s more an early spring or autumn walk, more about the other notes of the outdoors. A warm grassy vetiver is the biggest player in this to me, but what brings this alive is the feeling of sunshine warming all the notes, making them mid-tone, even that darkest and densest of wood inhabitants, oak moss. It is a companionable fragrance made more attractive by the fact of it’s mostly natural ingredients. It’s a linear fragrance, but as is usually said, when you love the note it is, you welcome the fact it doesn’t change. Bottle worthy!
Source: crazy-frankenstein.com

Source: crazy-frankenstein.com

On Fragrantica, there is only one review for Oakmoss thus far (under its Italian name of Muschio di Quercia), and it’s a very positive one. “Colin Maillard” writes:

A deceptive name for a beautiful silent symphony built around vetiver. The opening is already centered on this great wood note, a superb, realistic, dense and honest rendition of all nuances of vetiver, from humid hay to its green, zesty, hearty sides. I’d say it’s the quintessence of wood, without boundaries, restrictions, artificial shapes and without synthetic tricks, just pure vetiver woody greatness – as usual with Dubrana, one of the most honest and sincere perfumers in nowadays’ perfumery when it comes to enhancing the voice of nature. I also detect a sharp cedar/oak note, and perhaps sandalwood too, which gives a sweet-syrupy woody note on the very base that perfectly blends with the sweet/wet side of vetiver. Despite being so natural and “free” to express all facets of wood, it’s a really elegant and noble cologne, with a superbly aromatic but discrete presence on skin. In its early stages, the drydown is still boldly woody, aromatic and rich, evocative and utterly refined in its compelling simplicity and naturality. The oak moss note is there, although quite light, to support and enhance the earthy-mossy and “rural” side of vetiver more than acting as a “separate” note itself. The very final drydown is a pleasant, silky, aromatic, super cozy and elegant earthy-woody accord with a hint of talcum and a subtle ambery warmth. Worth a try, a purchase and a gift!

8,5/10

I very much agree with all the commentators. Oakmoss is definitely worth a try if you are a hardcore vetiver lover. It’s easy to wear, versatile, unisex, long lasting, and has a very polished feel. It may not evoke an animalic, jungle “Tarzan” for me, or be a true oakmoss soliflore — something which isn’t really possible anyway in this day and age of IFRA/EU restrictions — but it’s an elegant, rather sexy woody vetiver with smoothness, subtle depths, and a rare sunshine-warmed character. Very nice.

Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of AbdesSalaam Attar. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my views are my own.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Oakmoss/Tarzan is an eau de parfum that come in a variety of sizes, and is exclusive to the Profumo website which ships its scents world-wide. The following prices for Oakmoss are all in Euros without VAT tax: €54,55 for 15.5 ml; €105,13 for 32 ml (a little over 1 oz); and €156,70 for 50 ml/1.7 oz. The site says: “Prices are without VAT and are valid for USA and all non EEC countries[;] for shipments in the EEC 22% VAT will be ADDED to the amount in the shopping cart.” There is also a Mignon Discovery Coffret which is available for any 5 fragrances, each in a glass 5.5 ml bottle. The price depends on which perfumes you pick, as the choice is up to you. The 5.5 ml bottle of Oakmoss is €18,54. On a side note, shipping is always very fast. I generally receive my samples from AbdesSalaam roughly 4 or 5 days after he sends the package. Also, Profumo provides free 2 ml samples with all full-bottle purchases and I think with the Mignon set as well. In short, if you’re ordering fragrance, you may want to ask for a tiny sample of something that strikes your eye. Samples: Surrender to Chance sells samples of Oakmoss starting at $7.99 for a 1 ml vial.

Olivier Durbano Prométhée & Lapis Philosophorum

"Prometheus Carrying Fire" by Jan Cossiers, 1600-71. Source: allposters.com

“Prometheus Carrying Fire” by Jan Cossiers, 1600-71. Source: allposters.com

Prometheus rising, bringing fire to man, and The Philosopher’s Stone, transforming metals to gold and offering the chance at immortality — those are two of the great myths of history, now embodied in fragrances centered on dark earth notes with incense. How could I possibly resist? If there is anything I love more than perfume, it’s history, so I was instantly intrigued when I came across Lapis Philosophorum and Prométhée (hereinafter just “Promethee”).

They are two fragrances from Olivier Durbano, a Parisian jeweller who specializes in expensive creations using semi-precious stones. Apparently, from what I’ve read, his jewellery is a big hit with the French “glitterati,” as one person put it. Yet, he also has a perfume line, roughly 10 fragrances in total, most of them inspired by a different semi-precious stone. His latest two, however, are drawn from mythology, but all of them are his own creation and made without the assistance of a perfume “nose.” I’ll look at each one in turn.

Photo via the Olivier Durbano website.

Photo via the Olivier Durbano website.

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Profumum Fumidus

Source: hqoboi.com

Source: hqoboi.com

The roof! The roof! The roof is on Fire!’ The lyrics of the old ’80s song often run through my mind when I wear Fumidus, a smoky tank of a fragrance centered on vetiver and birch, with beautiful touches of salty, peaty, Laphroaig single-malt whiskey. It may be a creation from an Italian perfume house, but Fumidus conjures up images for me of a small house by a Scottish or Irish seaside village. Outdoor fires burn vetiver bricks, as a man sips his Islay scotch, and his old car rumbles idly by to the side, releasing whiffs of rubber and diesel, before quickly dying away. A thick haze of black smoke lies over the house, growing stronger with every passing minute, and soon turns into a vetiver smoke signal going up to Mars.

Source: wallpaperno.com

Source: wallpaperno.com

Fumidus is a behemoth of smoky greenness, so dark that it verges on black. Nay, it actually is visually black for me, at least at first. If it were a vehicle, it wouldn’t be some sleek, sporty Italian number, but a lumbering, heavy, intimidating, military Sherman tank intended to plow down everything in its path. And, for the most part, I mean that in quite a good way. But let’s be clear about a few things right from the start: Fumidus is a challenging fragrance that requires some patience; you must love both vetiver and birch tar in all their facets; and there is nothing remotely unisex about this fragrance. Nothing. Not one iota. It is pure masculinity with an unrepentant swagger and enough testosterone to give Arnold Schwarzenegger pause.

Source: Profumum website.

Source: Profumum website.

Fumidus is an eau de parfum from Profumum Roma that was released in 1996, and its name seems intended to give you full warning of what it is all about. Profumum‘s website writes quite simply:

Aristocratic white smoke of prestigious cigars
diffuses in chambers heated
by peaty Scottish whiskies
and the warmth of fireplaces burning oak logs.
[Notes:] Vetiver, Smoked birch

I don’t think that summation covers the half of it! Luckyscent‘s description is much more on-point and apt, in my opinion:

Fumidus means smoky, and smoky it is. The smokiness of aged Laphroaig scotch served neat, It is also earthy – the earthiness of rich, freshly tilled land surrounded by uncut forest. Deep and magnetic and commanding, this blend of rich peat, grassy vetiver and brisk birch conjures up a vast estate and its moody young lord making his way through the fog on an unruly stallion. It’s outdoorsy, but in a way that makes it clear that you don’t just work in the forest, you own that forest yourself, along with a good bit of grassland and quite possibly a castle. Unmistakably masculine and very sexy.

[Notes:] Essence of distilled scotch, vetiver root, birch bark.

Source: nyloveswhisky.com

Source: nyloveswhisky.com

Fumidus opens on my skin with a rich, heavy, very concentrated wave of single-malt whiskey from the Islay isle — and, God, is it fantastic. I have a particular weakness for Laphroaig (though Laguvulin 16 is also superb), and that is precisely what is pulsating off my skin like a sonic sound wave. Boozy, just barely sweetened, very smoky, Islay scotch, thoroughly infused with peaty bog and a touch of salt.

It completely evokes Scotland or Ireland by the coast, as the salty sea air passes over the cliffs and moves over earthy, dank soil on its way to a small farmhouse. In front of it, a large campfire is burning birch logs and vetiver bricks. A man sips scotch, and contemplates the singed woods that are slowly going up in smoke. A sliver of compost lies fermenting in the corner, near his old car. It lies idling, its engines emitting rubber and diesel which mixes in with the smell of its rough, broken leather. They all rise up, swirling into the dark haze that lies like an oily, black blanket over the house.

Talisker, an Islay single malt. Photo: Savuista at the Savuista blog.http://savuista.blogspot.com/2013_10_01_archive.html

Talisker, an Islay single malt, on burnt wood in a camp fire. Photo: Savuista at the Savuista blog.http://savuista.blogspot.com/2013_10_01_archive.html

The best parts of Fumidus’ opening for me is the smoky, peaty Scotch commingled with the saltiness, the dank earth and, yes, the touch of compost. Fumidus is far from being an “aquatic” fragrance, in the way that we classify such things, but it briefly portrays an almost aquatic saltiness from a Northern Atlantic seaside town better than anything I’ve encountered in a while. It merely happens to be the salty feel of vetiver and burning smoke, instead of kelp. (For actual “kelp,” and genuine Northern sea aromas, Profumum has Acqua di Sale.) The small slivers of rubber and diesel at Fumidus’ edges add to the originality of the mix, though the diesel only lasts about 10 minutes, at most, on my skin.

Source: Savuista at savuista.blogspot.com. (Direct website link embedded within.)

Source: Savuista at savuista.blogspot.com. (Direct website link embedded within.)

I’m slightly less enthused by the sheer rawness of the burning vetiver, but that is solely because of my personal issues with the note. As I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, I am not the world’s greatest vetiver lover, especially when it is in soliflore or concentrated form. I also prefer a particular type of vetiver aroma, like the earthier dank version that is in Vetiverus by Olivier & Co. For me, the fresher and simultaneously almost raw sort of smoky vetiver that is in Fumidus is much more challenging. If it weren’t quite so intense, it might be easier. That said, its peaty, marshy, almost fungal aspects, and the way it reeks of sweetness and booze… those parts are fantastic. The single-malt sweetness is so incredibly rich, nuanced, and deep that I want much, much more of it. The amount that appears on my skin isn’t enormous, alas.

There is a definite oiliness to Fumidus that I think speaks to the perfume’s character as a whole. It goes beyond the mere issue of tarriness, or Fumidus’ occasionally rubbered undertones. It’s also quite separate from the heaviness of that vetiver stew. Rather, there is an unctuousness to Fumidus that feels as though extremely concentrated essences were used to create an attar-like thickness. Fumidus feels quite opaque, and, as such, it fully bears the Profumum Roma signature. Many of their supposed “eau de parfums” are actually Extraits, reportedly coming in at a whopping 42%-44% in concentration, and Fumidus feels heavier than most.

Photo: My own.

Photo: My own.

It also has good sillage at first. Using the dabbed equivalent of one large spray from an actual perfume bottle, I experienced roughly 3 inches in projection, though it felt like a solid brick wall in terms of heft and weight. I suspect most people’s usual 2 spray quantity would yield a much more forceful cloud. Perhaps a little too forceful for most practical purposes. As I noted at the start, Fumidus is a challenging fragrance that may require a little patience at first, and initially going to town with the number of sprays may not be the wisest thing until you get used to it.

I have to wonder about Fumidus’ list of notes, and whether it is complete. I’ve noticed in the past that Profumum Roma has a tendency to give a nutshell synopsis of the ingredients in its fragrances, and to skip over the finer points. With Fumidus, it feels as if there may be some sort of resin or benzoin underlying all that smoky vetiver, as Fumidus turns much richer and slightly sweeter after 30 minutes. It’s a different sort of sweetness than the boozy scotch, and feels more like styrax or some balm. Whatever the reason or source, it helps wipe away the diesel aroma entirely, while also fractionally softening some of the rubber.

Tar pit bubbles. Source: Los Angeles' La Brea tar and asphalt pits. tarpits.org

Tar pit bubbles. Source: Los Angeles’ La Brea tar and asphalt pits. tarpits.org

The birch, however, is beginning to resemble something out of La Brea’s famous tar pits in Los Angeles. In fact, it feels as though it’s practically bubbling. As the fire continues to burn the vetiver logs, the campfire smoke billows out into the skin. The earthy, almost marshy muskiness that I love so much fades away about 45 minutes in, leaving a vetiver that is primarily smoked and only a little bit boozy. It’s a mix that is probably incredibly sexy and hot on the right man, but I cannot imagine any woman pulling it off. Frankly, not every man could (or may want to) either.

David Gandy for Esquire Mexico (December 2013). Photo: John Russo. Source:  davidjamesgandy.blogspot.com

David Gandy for Esquire Mexico (December 2013). Photo: John Russo. Source: davidjamesgandy.blogspot.com

However, on the right man… on the right man, Fumidus would be riveting. He would definitely be wearing all black and leather, like one of the Ramones. Or, he would be in a bespoke power suit and getting out of a Bentley. There is nothing in-between, in my opinion. Absolutely none. Fumidus is too much of a balls-to-the-wall explosion of darkness and untrammeled intensity. It feels ferocious, untamed, aggressively masculine — and utterly unrepentant about any of it. In fact, it would probably give you a cheeky grin at thinking it was a simple vetiver fragrance. Either that, or snarl in your face before throwing back a neat three-fingers of Laphroaig.

Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Source: wallpaperup.com

Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Source: wallpaperup.com

In short, Fumidus’ brutishness in the opening hours feels quite feral. It merely happens to be disguised or cloaked in the veneer of a civilized sophisticate’s taste for expensive scotch. None of that is an insult, by the way. I think there is something to be deeply admired about a fragrance that is so unapologetic about having a purely raw and untamed heart. I respect its brute force enormously, as well as its smoldering intensity and how it plays with something as refined as single-malt scotch in a sea of more primitive darkness. Now that I think of it, Fumidus would be a good scent, symbolically, for the television version of Hannibal, except Mads Mikkelsen’s character would never be as obvious as Fumidus can be.

Photo: Narinder Nanu via washingtonpost.com

Photo: Narinder Nanu via washingtonpost.com

Fumidus doesn’t change drastically at its core for quite a few hours. Some of the subtler aspects may fade away, before briefly popping back up at the periphery, but the perfume’s essence continues to be various manifestations of vetiver and birch, with vetiver coming out ahead. Fumidus’ sillage drops down at the end of the first hour to roughly 2 inches above the skin, where it stays for a while. The biggest change, however, is that the beautiful booziness begins to fade at the end of the second hour and the start of the third. Until then, the vetiver and birch had been in a two-way race for the top spot, with the vetiver leading by a nose, while the Laphraoig quietly trailed behind. By the middle of the 4th hour, the scotch is far behind, and it falls out of the race entirely by the start of the 5th hour.

In its middle stage, beginning roughly around about the 4.5 hour mark, Fumidus turns essentially into a more concentrated, smokier vetiver soliflore. I’ve read a few people  who say that Fumidus’ drydown is like that of Chanel‘s famous Sycomore, but I find extreme differences. On my skin, Sycomore never wafted hardcore birch smoke or tarriness. It also never felt like a soliflore. In its later phase, I had impressions of burnt caramel, black cocoa powder, incense, and dry earth. Flickering hints of evergreen from a juniper note also added a certain chilly coolness which offset Sycomore’s smoky earthiness, as did the creamy sandalwood in the base. But the main difference is the vetiver’s smokiness. It was significantly softer and much smoother in Sycomore. Fumidus feels like smoked vetiver on steroids. Sycomore is not. Neither brutish force nor opaque singularity are words that I’d use to describe the Chanel scent.

And Fumidus is quite singular in its focus. On my skin, it turns into campfire smoked vetiver with singed woods in the middle phase, then into purely smoked vetiver, before finally ending up as rather minty vetiver with only subtle traces of smokiness. My skin has a tendency to turn Haitian vetiver into something quite fresh, bright green, and peppermint-like, so once the birch in Fumidus fades away as a hefty presence, the grass’ other nuances come more to the forefront. In its final moments, Fumidus is like a thin smear of vetiver greenness, and nothing more. All in all, it lasted an enormous 15.75 hours on my perfume consuming skin, with the equivalent of one spray from an actual bottle. It’s not surprising. Profumum Roma’s fragrances last for an eternity, and on people with normal skin, quite easily in excess of 24 hours.

Photo: My own.

Photo: My own.

There are mixed reviews for Fumidus out there, primarily because of the sheer intensity of its smokiness. As one person on Fragrantica called “Scentzilla” put it so well, “what the hell did you expect from a perfume that is named ‘FUMIDUS’, I ask you?” In all fairness, however, for a few people, the specific difficulty seems to be an ashtray-like nuance to the burnt birch wood:

Seems it’s a love or hate thing with this scent– to me it smells like someone spilled some Scotch into an ashtray full of cigarette butts. Had to wash it off.

There are numerous Basenotes threads devoted to Fumidus, from its official entry page where someone brings up Chanel’s Sycomore once again, to general discussion threads. In one beautifully evocative description, a chap talks about Fumidus as perfume Art, with a smell that also bordered on that of oil paints:

What a beautiful example of perfume as art. I was initially repulsed, trying to decide why this would be proffered as a perfume to be worn on the body. The initial blast of birch tar was an oil painting completed, but propped in the corner waiting to dry. The smell of an artist awake until the final stroke was applied.

I don’t get the smoke, but I get the effort. This is a perfume that captures a moment. Having spent innumerable hours in an artist’s studio, I get no warm outdoorsy notes, but straight up painting. Maybe the woody scented breeze through an open studio window. Like spending an afternoon with Picasso. The perfect fragrance for a day at the art museum. I shall have an entire bottle for that purpose alone.

Sid Vicious via oxforddnb.com

Sid Vicious via oxforddnb.com

In another thread, a commentator called “Sloan” has a review that made me nod in agreement, especially at his comparison to Sid Vicious. “Sloan” loves Fumidus, though he admits bluntly that he hated it at first because he judged it too quickly and without adequate patience:

I have since come around to developing a serious appreciation for this fragrance. My original negative comments were a prime example of judging a fragrance before giving it a thorough wearing. After testing a majority of the line, Fumidus has since become my first and only full bottle purchase from Profumum and an all-time favorite.

Fumidus is a stunning smoky, woody, earhty vetiver fragrance with a ghost of Scotch. The smoked birch opening has a “sod off” snarl that would have made Sid Vicious green with envy. As the smokier top notes fade, the benzoin note adds a Scotch element. Recalls the smoky, peaty Laphroaig Scotch, which has an odor similar to tincture of benzoin or Benzocaine. The drydown is an earthy vetiver reminiscent of Lorenzo Villoresi’s amazing Vetiver with some wood added to the mix. Ferocious at and brutish times, Fumidus is a beast that energizes my inner animal. A complex, shape shifting, powerhouse not for the meek. The wearing experience is akin to a symbiotic relationship in which Fumidus and the wearer wear each other. Remember, patience and persistence is required.

Another person who changed his mind about Fumidus wrote:

I’ve been trying this one out lately. At first I hated it, mostly because I felt there was some sort of compost or fungus note in there, but now I’m really growing found of it.

A few things it reminds me of:
– The wet rich earthy soil behind my backyard. I live in a somewhat foresty area.
– My elementary school playground. The floor was covered in a birch like wood. After a rainshower the the entire place smelt like Fumidus.
– The inside of a old wooden cabin with a fire inside going off, somewhere out in the middle of the nowhere.

Birch bark. Photo: Hattie Wilcox at Available Light Only photography. availablelightonly.com/

Birch bark. Photo: Hattie Wilcox at Available Light Only photography. availablelightonly.com/

As should be clear by now, Fumidus is quite a “love it/loathe it” scent, so there are some very negative reviews on Basenotes as well. In the official thread for the fragrance, some commentators write:

  • Scotch and vetiver – these notes I love. Birch bark – this I don’t. I think it’s a shame that birch bark was included in this scent because I think the other notes in Fumidus are so outstanding: The Scotch and vetiver are strong enough to survive through the birch bark miasma… they exhibit the potential of forming an intriguing accord, but, alas, in the end they are undone by the presence of lesser than they. I love the smokiness and the intriguing combination of scotch and vetiver of the fragrance, and this would be a great fragrance if it weren’t for the birch.
  • I get mildew; chestnut; the wet, black rot of forest-floor compost; rooty vetiver. I’m afraid I find the overall effect to be decidedly disgusting. [¶] On the other hand, it’s not the disgusting of incompetence or indifference, and I can certainly envision some sick bastard enjoying this. It’s just an extreme scent. If the description appeals to you, don’t be too put off by the predominance of thumbs down. [¶]I would imagine that to enjoy this, you would have to really like Frederick Malle’s Vetiver Extraordinare, but find VE too tame and sanitized.
  • Fumidus was a scrubber for me. As much as I love the raw vetiver in MPG RdV and Frederic Malle’s VE, the smoke in this fragrance just really blows me away. It smells a bit like a stale, half-smoked cigar drenched in scotch.. over top of a great, raw vetiver. It’s just a bit too dirty – I wish there was something in here to temper it a bit. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
Irish peat bricks in an outdoor fire. Source: freeirishphotos.com

Irish peat bricks in an outdoor fire. Source: freeirishphotos.com

At a much harsher extreme is the review from “Alfarom” who writes:

The notes list is promising the scent is definitely disappointing. Ok, there are three ways to approach this review for me:

1) Great perfume if you like to burn wet vetiver roots in the fireplace (translated: A LOT OF SMOKE) while drinking some Scotch and in the meantime you don’t realize your place is going on fire.

2) great perfume if you want to smell like you’ve just been rescued from you mountain hut that has gone on fire.

3) great perfume if you like to set fire to the trashcan where you have wasted an old vetiver fragrance gone bad.

To me it simply smells horrible, unpleasant and definitely unbalanced on the smoky side. Sorry, I’ve to pass on this one.

I think “Alfarom” is a great critic, and I usually agree with him 8 times out of 10. In this case, though, I like Fumidus significantly more than he does. I happen to love intense smokiness, and the Laphroaig part blows me away, even if it only lasts a few hours. My thing is not so much the smokiness, as the fact that I simply don’t like smoky vetiver all that much. So, ultimately, I really do end up in the same place as he does, in giving Fumidus a personal pass.

At the end of the day, Fumidus is not a scent for the faint of heart, and your feelings about it are really going to come down to your personal tastes, not to mention your skin chemistry. It is an extremely challenging fragrance — and it is intentionally crafted that way. So, if you’re a hardcore vetiver lover, give it a try, but also exercise a little patience. There is beauty in its raw, primitive, feral nature, but not everyone likes untamed beasts. On the right man, though, with the right skin chemistry, I think Fumidus would be utterly captivating.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Fumidus is an Eau de Parfum with Extrait concentration that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. Profumum doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: Fumidus is available from Luckyscent and OsswaldNYC. Both sites sell samples at different costs.. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can generally find Profumum line at Paris’ Printemps store, Premiere Avenue in France, France’s Soleil d’Or, the Netherlands’ Celeste (which does not include Fumidus amongst its website choices), Hungary’s Neroli, Switzerland’s Osswald, and Russia’s Lenoma boutiques. Premiere Avenue sells Fumidus for €190. According to the Profumum website, their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries samples of Fumidus starting at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.