Jakarta (Abdul Karim Al Faransi/Maison Anthony Marmin)
Jakarta certainly gives ManRose (Etro) a run for its money in the ‘we have kraftwerked a rose scent that men won’t have a problem wearing’ stakes (though one might argue that Le Labo Rose 90210 and Egoïste got there first). Yet for such an essentially austere rose leather, Jakarta starts out in a surprisingly lush, velvety place. So much so, in fact, that it evokes red rose petals strewn on white silk sheets, two glasses of Burgundy breathing on the nightstand for ‘after’.
The initial bout of heavy breathing is great – bosomy and intentional. Past the velvety opening, however, a fistful of iodine-ish saffron elbows its way in, roughing up the texture of the rose and steering it into cooler-blooded territory. Underneath the rose and saffron, the wet, brown smell of wood rot soaks through the silk sheets, adding a sense of decayed grandeur. This all moves the dial towards masculine.
Midway through, a sharp metallic green accent develops – the blue-green sheen of geranium leaf perhaps – paring the rose into a shiv. It remains rich, but it is very much now a spiky green rose rather than a lush, berried one. Vetiver, though not terribly evident as a note in and of itself (grassy, rooty), is the main building block of the refined grey-green leather accord that steadies the base. Men may well prefer the scent when it settles into this track, but I mourn the departure of that slightly trashy rose.
Jardin d’Borneo (Sultan Pasha Attars)
Jardin d’Borneo opens with such a pungent, green lavender note that you immediately see the familial relationship to pine needles, rosemary, and (to a certain degree) wild mint. Rapidly, though, the sharpness is softened by tonka and a very natural-smelling gardenia, rich in the gouty cream cheese and coconut nuances so characteristic of this flower.
Towards the heart – if an attar can be said to have a heart in the traditional sense – there appears a mysterious diesel note, hot and almost rubbery in feel. This usually signifies the presence of jasmine absolute, but none is listed in the notes, so it could be a boot polish facet of the gardenia or tuberose.
Sultan Pasha used Ensar Oud’s Bois De Borneo in this mukhallat, a pure Borneo oud oil that is very green and forest-like in aroma. Jardin d’Borneo also makes use of a little-known material called katrafay. Steam-distilled from the bark of Cedrolopsis grevei, a bush tree native to Madagascar, katrafay is an essential oil with a complex aroma profile ranging from grass to turmeric and full-fat cream. Its main role in Jardin d’Borneo seems to be to modulate the edges of the sharper, more aromatic notes of lavender, pine, and rosemary. It also introduces a soft, long-lasting green creamy note.
Intertwined with the dark green jungle feel of the mukhallat is a misting of soapy vapors from a bathroom where finely-milled French goat milk soap has just been used. This gives rise to a scent profile not terribly far removed from those pungently green and nutty-milky florals of the 1950s, such as Dioressence.
In its original form, Dioressence was a sultry, heavy green chypre famously made up of two halves – an animalic ambergris and civet base mixed with soapy green florals with a minor milky, fruity facet. The fact that Jardin d’Borneo – a modern mukhallat – successfully recreates much of the feel of vintage Dioressence speaks to Sultan Pasha’s passion for the now mostly forgotten glories of classic perfumery, as well as to a talent for curation.
In style, therefore, Jardin d’Borneo is a very French affair, with a Gaugin-esque nudge towards the jungly undergrowth of the Polynesian Islands. Jardin d’Borneo is used as a base for three other attars in Sultan Pasha’s range, specifically Jardin d’Borneo Gardenia, Tuberose and White Ginger Lily.
Jardin d’Borneo Gardenia (Sultan Pasha Attars)
Jardin d’Borneo opens with a rich, fruity gardenia note, which initially smells rather like fermenting green apples and wood varnish, before picking up the humus-rich soil and cream facets so revered by fragrance lovers. Most gardenia fans know how rare it is to find a true rendition of gardenia in modern perfumery. Because it can only be solvent-extracted rather than distilled in the regular fashion, it is not possible to produce gardenia absolute in amounts big enough to satisfy the volume demands of commercial perfumery and is therefore extremely expensive (at the time of writing, 1ml of gardenia absolute costs almost €37). Fortunately, because artisanal mukhallat perfumery deals with tiny amounts of raw materials and small batches, it can use gardenia in more than holistic quantities. Another advantage to wearing attars and mukhallats!
Sultan Pasha has framed his costly gardenia enfleurage with materials that set off its beauty like a gemstone, chief among them the verdant nuttiness of vetiver and a rubbery, fuel-like tuberose. The gardenia ‘fullness’ achieved here makes it a must-sample for all gardenia lovers – it is rich but not sickly, and creamy without any off-putting moldy cheese notes. Texturally, it tends towards the oiliness of solvent. The gardenia accord is set atop the Jardin d’Borneo fougère base, a fertile tangle of vetiver root, oud from the island of Borneo (which produces oud oil with a very clean, green, almost minty profile), lavender, galbanum, and tonka bean.
The entire Jardin d’Borneo series is excellent, but it is Jardin d’Borneo Gardenia that best exemplifies the advantage of attars or mukhallats over Western-style eau de parfums or spray perfumes in general – namely the ability to use and showcase rare or costly raw materials, such as gardenia, jasmine, oud oil, ambergris, and deer musk, that cannot be used in modern commercial perfumery for reasons of cost or scalability.
Jardin d’Borneo Tuberose (Sultan Pasha Attars)
White floral haters need not fear – Jardin d’Borneo Tuberose is not a Fracas-style tuberose, with enough butter and sugar to set your teeth on edge. Rather, it combines a phenomenally bitter, camphoraceous tuberose absolute with the jungly notes of the rare Bois de Borneo oud from Ensar Oud and gives it a five o’ clock shadow with a needle prick’s worth of skunk.
Yes, you read that correctly – skunk. At a time when modern niche perfumers seem to be in a perpetual race to out-skank each other in their use of castoreum, musk, and civet, Sultan Pasha has upped the ante by using a minute amount of perhaps one of the stinkiest secretions of all – the foul stench of Pepe Le Pew. It is a bold move but, honestly, the note has been used with such subtlety that it is more of an undercurrent than a groundswell.
The tuberose absolute is earthy, fungal, and almost moldy in aroma profile, which adds a morose ‘Morrisey-esque’ cast to proceedings. Misanthropes and Heathcliff types wandering the moors at night, hold tight because your soul mate attar has been revealed.
But like a sulky Goth teenager being handed a puppy, the mukhallat eventually shrugs off the dark, camphoraceous, and bitter elements of the tuberose absolute to reveal a shy smile of creamy gardenia, lush white tuberose petals, and slightly milky-fruity elements – the original Jardin d’Borneo attar used in the base. In short, Jardin d’Borneo starts off on the Yorkshire moors and winds up in the lush, tropical jungles of Polynesia. Not a bad trajectory at all.
Jardin d’Borneo White Ginger Lily (Sultan Pasha Attars)
By far my favorite of the Jardin d’Borneo series, the White Ginger Lily variant takes a rough, minty Sambac jasmine and floats it in a pool of crisp aqueous notes (white ginger lily and lotus), creating a floral accord that is both mouth-wateringly rich and translucent.
White ginger lily has a vein of piquant spice anchoring its meaty, salty creaminess, a characteristic that pairs very well with the pelvic thrust of the Sambac jasmine. The topnotes are intoxicating – an exotic mix of the fleshy floral warmth of a living flower and the green chill of flowers taken from a florist’s fridge.
These florals hover weightlessly over the fougère base accord used in all the Jardin d’Borneo variants, ripe with the rubbery bleu cheese tones of gardenia and rugged with coumarin, lavender, vetiver, oud, and civet. The steamy jungle character of the base gains its sharp, minty freshness from the Borneo-style oud used here, as well as its vaporous, rainforest-like juiciness.
Jardin de Shalimar (Agarscents Bazaar)
Jardin de Shalimar is a stinky, old-fashioned floral musk that will strike a chord for lovers of Joy (Patou), Ubar (Amouage), and My Sin (Lanvin). Although an unofficial notes list found on Fragrantica states that it contains two different types of rose, jasmine, orris, violet, narcissus, lotus, saffron, and bakula (fragrant, honeyed flowers from the Garland Tree native to Western India), the real notes list is clearly far more complex.
Jardin de Shalimar begins with a slightly abstract explosion of flowers with a texture so murky that it is difficult to discern individual notes. Certainly, there is rose and jasmine, but also, I think, some champaca, magnolia, and kewra. The feel is not French, but nor is it Middle-Eastern. In fact, everything about this sumptuous floral reads as Indian. If I were to smell this blind, I would swear that this is a traditional Indian attar like hina musk or shamama.
Jardin de Shalimar opens with the scent of flowers, herbs, and aromatics caught in the web of a traditional Indian amber, tinged with the catch-in-your-throat iodine quality of saffron. These Indian ambers are never sweet, vanillic, or resinous in the Arabic mold; instead, they are herbal and astringent. The saffron and roses, particularly prominent in the opening phase, give the blend a spicy, resinous feel.
Later, the sweet, piercing tones of the lotus flower emerge, and on its heels, the musky apple peel of champaca flower and the high-pitched fruitiness of kewra. These materials may not have been used in the composition at all, but the total effect is so close to my experience with traditional Indian attars that I presume that more Indian ingredients have been used than are listed. The spicy, rich, and dense (but un-sweet) wave of florals is blanketed by an animalic surround sound system featuring ambergris, Kasturi deer musk, and agarwood. The agarwood is only present, to my nose, in tiny amounts, but it is enough to mimics the bitter-dirty-smoky effect of Atlas cedarwood.
Together, these materials give the scent a musky texture that is directly reminiscent of animalic florals such as Joy and Ubar. It is as rich and as warm as a vintage fur coat, and just as naughty. Jardin de Shalimar certainly will not be anything new to people familiar with complex Indian floral attars, but for those who mourn the passing of an age where floral perfumes contained nitro musks or real animalics, then Jardin de Shalimar might provide a secret little thrill.
Type: concentrated perfume oil
Company description: Ethereal lilac fougere [sic] and gleaming leather with ti leaf, tonka absolute, white musk, and oudh.
Jareth is probably the first BPAL that I would recommend to anyone skeptical of BPAL and its 105,000 perfume-strong catalog, because it is living proof that diamonds can and do exist under a slump heap of coal. Featuring a cluster of damp, dewy lilacs and citrusy, green tea notes over a gentle leather accord, Jareth is technically a floral fougère. However, nothing about it reads as old-fashioned or masculine or cologne-ish.
Its leather accord is one of my favorite kinds – buttery, soft, and creamy, with tons of vanilla, tonka bean, and velvety white musks turning the whole thing into a freshly-laundered plush toy. There is a violet-like tinge to the lilacs that, combined with the cedarwood and suede, calls to mind a glorious mash-up of several Serge Lutens fragrances, most notably Bois de Violette and Boxeuses.
The oud note emits no exotic sound but, rather, a pale cedarwood accent that adds gravitas to the musky vanilla drydown. The floral tea and citrus notes shimmer brightly throughout, keeping the general tone of the scent light and rendering it suitable for wear even during the stickiest of weather. A creamy, purple-tinged floral fougère softened with buttery musks and leather, Jareth is an unqualified success.
Jasmina (April Aromatics)
Type: concentrated perfume oil
Jasmina in oil format presents in much the same way as Jasmina in eau de parfum. This is probably due to the fact that the original composition itself is rather straight-forward, relying on its top-notch naturals to do all the talking. The notes list reads as jasmine, ylang, and grapefruit, and indeed, that is really what you get. But thanks to the complexity and ‘ripeness’ of the raw materials used, the perfume never comes off as shallow.
The jasmine oil, in particular, is stunning. Its rubbery, inky purpleness is almost something you can taste at the back of your tongue. The jasmine is natural and untrimmed – the full bush, so to speak – so in addition to the velvety lushness of the flower, we also get hints of gasoline, rubber tubing, dirt, mint, leather, and melting plastic. Lovers of natural jasmine will immediately (and correctly) rank this up there with the other great natural jasmines of the world, including Tawaf from La Via del Profumo and Jasmin T from Bruno Acampora.
The differences between the oil and eau de parfum are slight but emerge more distinctly when worn side by side. The eau de parfum accentuates the grapefruit note, its urinous character adding even more raunch to the dirty, indolic jasmine. The oil, on the other hand, is grapefruit-neutral. The effect of the grapefruit-jasmine pairing in the eau de parfum runs close to the powdered, heady jasmine-civet combination in Joy (Patou). Because the citrus note is sharply emphasized in the eau de parfum, its texture is more effervescent. The oil is more subdued in comparison.
On balance, the eau de parfum version is dirtier and lustier. The eau de parfum starts off brighter and more urinous than the oil, but its jasmine component is fleshier and therefore sexier. The eau de parfum is a jasmine-forward floral with a rich, perfumey backdrop, while the oil is a jasmine soliflore that, after a petrol-and-rubber opening (borrowed from the ylang), settles into something very pristine and freshly-scrubbed. Choose, therefore, according to how you take your jasmine.
Type: traditional distilled attar
Amouage’s Jasmine attar showcases the simple but affecting beauty of Sambac jasmine, with its fresh, green, and slightly minty or camphoraceous character. It is sweet, yes, but not tooth-achingly so, and mercifully avoids the unpleasantly saccharine or bubblegum nuances of other jasmine-based attars. Its freshness lends a subtle charm, and it is easy to be beguiled, even if you are not a jasmine fiend.
A mild criticism is that Jasmine does not sustain this rich greenness for long and soon devolves into a faintly musky, soapy white floral accord that feels a little too clean and generic. However, if you are a fan of Sambac jasmine soliflores such as Jasmin Full by Montale, then you owe it to yourself to track this down. It is also useful as a baseline for establishing what natural jasmine smells like.
Jasmin T (Bruno Acampora)
Type: concentrated perfume oil
Jasmin T opens with a punch of raw, indolic jasmine that threatens to set your nose hairs alight. It is powerful and bold, with an undertone of something feral, like flower petals putrefying in vase water. This element of rot adds to the authenticity of the jasmine. The smells of nature, when presented in their uncut form, are rarely pretty in a conventional sense.
Soon after the violent unfurling of the jasmine, a potent ylang slides into its DMs to accentuate its benzyl acetate qualities. Benzyl acetate is the naturally-occurring aromachemical in both ylang and jasmine responsible for that grapey-fuel-banana topnote. It smells like the gasses pouring off a rapidly decomposing banana in a brown paper bag, combined with the green, animalic scent of banana stem. It also has hallucinogenic properties, similar to the effect of breathing in paint solvent. Initially, the combination of the jasmine and ylang is so vaporous that you feel it might ignite if you struck a match.
Gradually, however, green notes move in to aerate the pungent ripeness. These notes are stemmy and aqueous, possessed of a vegetal bitterness that cuts through the compressed floral accords, lifting and separately them. This intervention calms the jasmine and renders it quietly sleek and lush, a tamed version of the panther that came before. The drydown smells musky in an indeterminate manner, perhaps a natural extension of natural jasmine oil, but also possibly a reformulation. (My current bottle of Jasmin T is heavier on the soapy white musk basenotes than previous iterations).
Overall, Jasmin T presents a raw, true picture of jasmine. It is a powerful smell rather than a pretty one. The perfume equivalent of eating clean food, it is hard to imagine going back to commercial representations of jasmine after smelling this tour de force.
Junos headlines with an orris root note of stunning beauty. It smells raw, rooty, and exactly like the color silver. High-pitched and almost ureic in its intensity, the animalic, ‘wet newspaper’ aspects of iris are further emphasized with pepper, vetiver, and a licorice-root myrrh. Everything here sings in the same high, metallic-peppery-rooty register. It is both weird and weirdly beautiful.
Despite the essential delicacy of the material, a pure iris note can be as powerful as a train whistle – just smell Iris Silver Mist to grasp its sinister intensity. The cold, metallic earthiness of the iris is eventually tempered somewhat by a sweet frangipani and the powdery cinnamon of benzoin, but its silvery rootiness persists in floating high above all the other notes.
The listed oud does not register at all on my skin, nor does the patchouli beyond a certain brown leafiness flitting around the edges of that remarkable iris. With an iris so pure and evilly intense, they are beside the point anyway. Though quite a deal ‘rougher’ around the edges than any of the Sultan Pasha takes on this noble rhizome, Junos is still a must-try for the truly hardcore orris lovers out there.
Juriah (Sultan Pasha Attars)
Juriah is a rose-oud mukhallat so thick and so ropey that wearing it feels like placing your hands flat against a man’s densely-muscled chest and feeling the tectonic plates of muscle and tendon shift and grind under the smooth skin. There is not an inch of fat on this thing. Just the perfect dance between a Hindi oud oil that feels like it has just been milked from an animal’s bile duct – biting, feral, but rich and slippery – and the heady bloom of the finest Taifi rose oil, with its green, peppered-steak fizz.
The aged Hindi oud, in combination with the more mellow, fruity tones of the Cambodi oud and a silty ambergris give the mukhallat a salty, feline purr, like the sensation of wearing a vintage fur over bare skin. The lush, honeyed drip-drip-drip of Turkish rose smooths over the edges a bit, but really, you are never allowed to take your eyes off that central tandem of Taifi rose and oud.
The musky leather drydown – some feature of the osmanthus perhaps – is a delight, as are the small floral and incensey touches that serve to soften the arrogant thrust of the rose and oud, without taking anything away from their grandeur. You can tell that synthetic musks have been added to roll the whole thundering wagon forward on the tracks, but their effect is not to broadcast or project (the rose and oud are themselves immensely strong) but rather to feather out any hard edges into a soft, musky haze. This has the effect of making the mukhallat more ambiguous in shape, more abstract.
Sultan Pasha himself calls Juriah his magnum opus, and I agree, except to add that perhaps Juriah shares that particular throne with the incredible Aurum D’Angkhor. Juriah is the archetypal rose-oud mukhallat but built with the finest raw materials in the world. Clearly a manifesto of sorts.
Karnal Flower for Women (Perfume Parlour)
Type: dupe, concentrated perfume oil
Dupe for: Parfums Editions de Frederic Malle Carnal Flower
If you did not already own Carnal Flower – even a wee drip of it – you might be forgiven for believing that this is a reasonable substitute. But a side-by-side wearing reveals all the usual problems inherent to dupes, namely too basic a structure, an inability to capture more complex or unusual notes, and a thinner body.
Karnal Flower makes a lunge for the throat with a bouquet of creamy, coconutty tuberose, but in doing so entirely misses what makes the original so special, which is the bitter green bite of the eucalyptus. The original smells memorably of a privet hedge. The dupe, not so much.
Carnal Flower is almost transcendent in its stemmy green beauty – botanical, naturalistic, and emotive. Its notes are ripped from nature. The dupe is your bog standard tuberose with a semi-tropical, tinned fruit edge that recalls the solar cheerfulness of monoï. Furthermore, in its simple, creamy prettiness, the tuberose note nudges the dupe into Michael by Michael Kors territory. Michael is a beautiful perfume in its own right, but its beauty is conventional and a little staid. The dupe therefore misses all the verdant excitement of the original.
Real osmanthus absolute, when smelled in isolation of anything else, is ridiculously pungent at first, with a cheesy, overripe note that runs close to the funk of a Hindi oud oil, minus the woodiness. Kinmokusei, which contains a large amount of osmanthus absolute, unfolds in much the same way. The barnyard facets of the osmanthus are up front here, underlined by a dark Kasturi musk. This has the effect of rendering the flower animal.
The apricot and leather notes so characteristic of osmanthus begin to emerge from the funk, and are immediately enhanced by the fruity, almost jammy undertones of the Trat oud oil. Matching the funk of the flower with the funk of the musk is clever, as is matching the fruitiness of the flower with the fruitiness of a particularly fruity type of oud oil. Like all great cheese and wine pairings, one taste enhances the other. In Kinmokusei, everything pulls in the same direction, all with the intent of emphasizing the naturally rich ‘roundness’ of osmanthus.
After a few hours, there appears a doughy whiff of doll’s head rubber, which combines with the osmanthus to produce a cherry cough medicine note. A similar medicinal syrup nuance is present in Diptyque’s Kimonanthe, so one might reasonably assume that this is a feature of osmanthus, or perhaps more accurately, of a Japanese-styled treatment of osmanthus. The cherry cough drop accord eventually disappears into a most pleasant ‘wheat porridge’ base that signals the presence of jasmine and sandalwood – half wood pulp, half granola.
Lady Portraits for Women (Perfume Parlour)
Type: dupe, concentrated perfume oil
Dupe for: Parfums Editions de Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady
The dupe opens with an objectionably sweaty mélange of eucalyptus, fir balsam, mint, and pine, all cruelly obscuring a shy rose. It veers close to disgusting. Not only do the opening notes rehash the original’s opening notes in the most crude and ham-fisted manner possible, but it does so on the cheap. The balance between the camphoraceous, the rosy, and the earthy is completely out of whack. The original, while definitely camphoraceous, never plunges so completely into bitter-minty balsam like the dupe does.
Eventually, this unhappy marriage of sweat, fir balsam, and eucalyptus dies back a little, making it smell less like the sick room of someone with a personal hygiene problem and more like something one might eventually be able to wear without grimacing. The rose manages to push through the veil of bilious green, revealing itself to be the same jammy Turkish rose note used in the original. However, while this nudges the dupe closer to the original, the vital component of smoky incense is missing.
The dupe doesn’t even come close to aping the bold beauty of the original. Portrait of a Lady is a demanding, often cantankerous perfume, but its balance between the chilly raspberry, rose, biting camphor, and earthy patchouli is perfectly judged. Not so the dupe, which is unbalanced to the point of ugliness.
The original is a full-bodied creature to whom one must commit body and soul before donning, like a pair of red vinyl stripper heels. But if you are going to commit, even if it is only one or two days out of the year, then make sure that you don’t cheat yourself out of the original. Beg, borrow, or steal a sample, and save it for those rare days when only Portrait of a Lady will do.
La Luna (Sultan Pasha Attars)
La Luna opens with a benzene-pumped white floral note that could be anything really – tuberose, gardenia, or orange flower – but reads to my nose as predominantly ylang ylang. Texturally, there is an interesting bitter greenness that slices through the hot rubber, lending relief. Once the pungency of the pure floral absolutes has abated somewhat, the primary floral note emerges as jasmine – a leathery Arabian sambac rather than the sweet, purplish Grandiflora variant.
The floral panoply becomes smokier as time wears on, like a well-heeled woman who has puffed her way through a pack of Marlboro while wearing a fur coat drenched in Amarige. Despite those references, La Luna is, on balance, a masculine white floral. Any man who can wear the Jardin series or Al Hareem Blanc could also pull this off. In temperament, it is somewhat analogous to Jasmin et Cigarette (État Libre d’Orange), albeit less ashy and with a richer white floral support in the place of its singular, minty jasmine.
Type: concentrated perfume oil
Company description: Deadly elegance: pale orchid, lily of the valley, vanilla amber, black currant, white peach, champaca, coconut, honeysuckle, Arabian myrrh, Burmese vetiver, and oude [sic].
Lamia opens with a burst of creamy tropical flowers – most likely tiaré – with an underbelly of tinned peach slices and coconut custard. The headiness of the florals is underscored by a rich orchid-vanilla accord, but also lightened with a touch of something stemmy and watery-green (perhaps muguet). An assertive vetiver note contributes a cool, rooty grassiness. A pleasantly muted opening, therefore, to what could have otherwise been a sun-tan-and-flip-flops kind of thing.
Further on, a rubbery, juicy peach skin facet appears, swelling and rubbing up against the florals to flesh out the center. The faintly sour woods and resins in the base darken the peach, causing it to dry out into dusty fruit leather. This smells like dried apricots in a brown paper bag, which in turn makes me think of osmanthus.
There is no obvious oud note here, so those with nervous dispositions need not fear. Bear in mind that oud and osmanthus in their purest forms do share a ripe, almost cheesey fruitiness that tilts towards leather and goat curd. However, the ‘cheese’ connection does not seem to have been played up enormously here, so all one really smells is peach or apricot skin that has started to dry and curl at the edges. In the drydown, a whiff of smoked coconut husk appears. It may even be an attempt at gardenia.
In short, Lamia is an unusually nuanced take on the tropical BWF (Big White Floral) genre, its accords of fruit rot, rubber, and smoke more suggestive of peach skin and leather than of suntan or monoï oil.
La Peregrina (Mellifluence)
La Peregrina pairs the lush sweetness of tuberose with the earthiness of oud, deer musk, and sandalwood. Three elements rise to the nose right away – the sweetness of a pure tuberose ruh, the ambery heft of labdanum resin, and the mossy tones of the oud-musk tandem. The message it communicates is less flower than a wad of salted butter caramel rubbed into the wet, hummus-rich soil of a tropical rainforest. It smells magnificently fertile.
The earthy ‘brownness’ of three different kinds of oud tamps down bolshy honk of the tuberose, while a shot of styrax resin teases out the rubbery smokiness inherent to the flower. This is a tuberose that men could pull off without much difficulty. The buttery facets of tuberose are matched and then exaggerated by a toffee-ish labdanum. La Peregrina’s sweet-and-salty caramel glaze is dotted with wisps of smoke and white flower petals, which provide for a lighter final flourish, or at least one that won’t choke you out entirely.
Lavana opens with a citrusy lilt – grapefruit or lime perhaps – that evokes a face turned to the sun. When a fresh, peachy osmanthus note merges with the citrus notes, I am (quite happily) reminded of the cheap and cheerful body sprays I would take with me on holidays to Greece as a teenager.
Ambergris is present in this blend, but it is most likely a dab of the white stuff that has little scent of its own beyond a salty, shimmering sparkle that extends and magnifies the other materials until they glow like hot rocks in the sun. There is certainly none of the earthy funk of marine silt or horse stalls that I associate with darker, more pungent grades of ambergris.
Oud? Patchouli? I smell neither, but that is fine with me. Nothing dark can spoil the sunny, peachy radiance of this blend. There is a touch of rubbery ylang, but ylang is tropical and therefore allowed with us on the beach. Pass the sun cream, please!
Lissome’s opening is pure floral delight – thousands of bright frangipani petals, with their juicy peach scent, tumbling over jasmine, rose, and violet for an effect that feels you are being showered with flowers at an elaborate Indian wedding. It is bright, but soft and creamy.
There is a slightly musky edge to the flowers as it dries down, thanks to the Indian ambrette seed. The ambrette also adds a note of green apple peel that jives well with the tender, apricotty feel of the frangipani. Purely feminine, Lissome is creamy enough to provide comfort in winter but fruity enough to refresh when the barometer rises. In overall tone and effect, it reminds me slightly of Ormonde Jayne’s Frangipani, only slightly less dewy.
lostinflowers (Strangelove NYC)
Type: concentrated perfume oil
lostinflowers smells like a carpet of exotic flowers smeared over the floor of a cow barn. It smells entirely Indian to my nose, like one of those traditional Indian attars of champaca flower, hina (henna), and gardenia, where the flowers smell at first like leather or fuel before they loosen up and their more floral attributes begin to emerge.
lostinflowers is slightly dirty in feel, although it is difficult to tell if that it is because of the hint of oud or because Indian attars can be quite pungent in and of themselves. It is equal parts ‘sweaty sex on a bed of matted flower petals’ and ‘the buttery purity of magnolia’. It smells of honey, pollen, fruit, indole, and just enough inner thigh to pin your ears back.
The red champaca oil (known as joy oil in India) leads the charge, imbuing the scent with a rich, juicy floral note that will feel exotic to most Western noses. There’s a musky, body odor-ish shadow to champaca lurking behind its juicy fruit exterior, further emphasized by a dry, throaty saffron and henna.
The real star in lostinflowers is not the champaca, however. It is the gardenia. A rare (and probably ruinously expensive) gardenia enfleurage deserves star billing for this scent, because its saline, bleu-cheese creaminess is ultimately what expands to saturate the air until it is practically all you smell. Salty, pungent flowers dissolving in a pool of warm, melted butter.
lostinflowers is an intense but beautiful experience that pushes a range of tropical or semi-tropical flowers through an Indian attar sieve. It is not particularly beginner-friendly, but for those who love the rudeness and weirdness and resolute non-perfumey-ness of strong floral absolutes, it is a must-smell.
About Me: A two-time Jasmine Award winner for excellence in perfume journalism, I write a blog (this one!) and have authored many guides, articles, and interviews for Basenotes. (My day-to-day work is in the scientific research for development world). Thanks to the generosity of friends and acquaintances in the perfume business, I have been privileged enough to smell the raw materials that go into perfumes and learn about the role they play in both Western and Eastern perfumery. Artisans have sent vials of the most precious materials on earth such as ambergris, deer musk, and oud. But I have also spent thousands of my own money, buying oud oils directly from artisans and tons of dodgy (and possibly illegal) stuff on eBay. In the reviews sections, I will always tell you where my sample came from and whether I paid for it or not.
Source of samples: I purchased samples from Perfume Parlour, Bruno Acampora, Amouage, Maison Anthony Marmin, Agarscents Bazaar, BPAL, and Mellifluence. The samples from Sultan Pasha were sent to me free of charge by the brand. My sample of lostinflowers came from Luckyscent as part of a paid copywriting job.
Note on monetization: My blog is not monetized. But if you’d like to support my work or show appreciation for any of the content I put out, you can always buy me a coffee using the little buymeacoffee button. Thank you!
Cover Image: Custom-designed by Jim Morgan.