Imagine a passage to India that begins by sailing through a billowing cloud of fragrant spices that capture the dusky, dusty, earthy heart of the country. It’s a trip that makes a long stop to sample the lushness of Indian desserts that have been fused with suede, cream, and spicy patchouli, then wrapped up with tendrils of smoke. The journey ends at sunset when darkness creeps over a warm, golden haze of balsamic resins. It’s a Voyage compliments of Hiram Green, and one that I very much recommend.
Voyage is an all-natural, handcrafted eau de parfum from Hiram Green Perfumes that was inspired by a long ago trip to India and the famous “Octopussy” palace on Lake Pichola in Udaipur. Only 250 bottles have been produced and the perfume will be released on November 2nd, though it is available now for pre-order. Hiram Green describes Voyage and its notes as follows:
An ode to the exotic mysteries of India, our new fragrance is as atmospheric and thrilling as a Mysore street market and as opulent as Octopussy’s floating palace on Lake Pichola.
Voyage is an intoxicating blend of fresh citrus top notes, a heart of warm amber and luscious suede over a smooth vanilla base.
The succinct note list is therefore:
citrus, spices, amber, suede, and vanilla.
What wafted from my skin was far more complex than that simple list, and it included several things that are not actually in the fragrance, according to Mr. Green. I’ve tested Voyage twice and, while the heart phase was different on one arm, the opening bouquet was consistently redolent of cardamom, coriander leaf (also known as cilantro), ginger, cinnamon (both the woody bark and the powdered spice), mandarin orange, and citrusy bergamot, while the heart phase was always strongly centered on spicy, smoky, woody brown patchouli and the drydown on smokier resins like Peru balsam. According to Mr. Green, Voyage does contain mandarin and patchouli, but no bergamot, cardamom, ginger, coriander, or cinnamon. I can only describe what appears on my skin and to my nose.
Voyage opens on my skin with wave upon wave of spices, laced with tiny slivers of spicy, smoky, brown patchouli, then lightly drizzled with golden booziness and a citrusy bergamot. The spice mix is headed by cardamom that smells green but also warm and spicy, followed by a very soapy note that resembles exactly how coriander leaf (cilantro) essential oil always manifests itself on my skin. There is ginger that smells fresh rather than candied or sweet, accompanied by a dry, spicy woodiness like cinnamon bark. The booziness quickly recedes, but the patchouli grows stronger after 15 minutes, leaving the sidelines, and adding a dusty earthiness to the main notes. Something about the way it combines with the spices consistently evoked tagetes or marigolds, even if it’s simply a side-effect of the other notes.
Truth be told, I don’t like Voyage’s opening and the first 40 minutes very much. I find it excessively dusty, like the remnants inside an ancient spice drawer. The citrusy note is a little sour on my skin, while the cilantro-like soapiness is really not my thing. As a whole, something about the combination feels extremely choppy to me. Yet, what follows is really wonderful, so, if you experience something similar, be patient. On my skin, things turned around at the 40 minute mark when I used several spritzes from my mini atomizer amounting to 2 sprays from an actual bottle, and after 75 minutes when I applied a larger quantity amounting to somewhere between 2 and 2.5 generous sprays.
The very first hints of the upcoming change occurs 20 minutes into Voyage’s development. Glimmers of orange appear in the background, while a quietly smoky “leather” awakens in the base, sending out tendrils of darkness to join those from the spicy, smoky, woody patchouli up top. The leather feels more like an abstraction than a clear, distinct, concrete note, and it definitely doesn’t smell like the tarry birch (or cade) that typically makes up the Russian leather genre. This is more a woody smokiness that feels coated in sticky balsams, possibly Peru balsam with its cinnamon-flecked darkness. After 30 minutes, small streaks of vanilla stir next to it in the base, but it takes a while longer for it to emerge fully, roughly 45 minutes in total with a smaller fragrance dosage, and between 60 to 75 minutes with a larger one. When it does, it changes everything for the better.
The vanilla truly transforms Voyage. It ends the choppy roughness, blends the notes together like a fixative glue, and also smoothens all the rough edges. It smells delicious as well: rich, heavy, and creamy, akin to an eggy custard, but also dark with smudges of smokiness at its edges. It coats every inch of the spices, the earthiness, and the spicy, smoky, woody patchouli, while also putting an end to Voyage’s soapiness, the citrus sourness, and that dusty, antique apothecary/spice cabinet feeling. Its explosion onto center stage occurs at the same time as an upswing in the mandarin which adds a nice touch of fruity juiciness to the mix, though it’s only a minor note at this point.
By the start of the 2nd hour, Voyage has turned into a delicious Indian dessert, perhaps a twist on Kulfi, where rich vanilla custard is heavily layered with patchouli, a cardamom-dominated spice mix, woodiness, earthiness, and smokiness. The difference is that Voyage is not painfully and excessively sweet the way most of Indian desserts can be. Nothing about it feels syrupy or truly gourmand because the darker elements keep the sweetness in check. The patchouli is particularly beautiful here, and now emits chocolate-y, cocoa-ish undertones in addition to its spicy, smoky, woody and earthy facets. They mix with the leather’s own threads of smokiness to create an accord that, once in a blue moon, almost resembles a faux Mysore sandalwood. Vestiges of an earthy floralcy like marigold add to the Indian-themed banquet.
Voyage’s long middle phase begins shortly thereafter. In essence, the fragrance turns into an ultra-spiced patchouli-vanilla bouquet atop a creamy base. The patchouli remains smoky and dark, while the spice mix is now dominated primarily by cardamom. At the same time, the smoky “leather” in the base is briefly transforms into a vanilla-coated suede before it finally ends up as vanilla clotted cream that merely bears a suede-like textural plushness from time to time.
When smelt from a distance, Voyage reminds me a bit of Loree Rodkin‘s Gothic I, though there are major differences. Gothic was primarily vanilla-centered on my skin, while the balance in Voyage skews far more to the patchouli in all its many various facets (except for the camphorous, green one). This is a significantly woodier, spicier, and drier scent than Gothic, less gourmand and more oriental in focus. There were no spices in Gothic beyond what carried over from the patchouli, while Voyage continues to waft strong cardamom overtones on my skin with an occasional hint of ginger. Yet, both fragrances share a strong core of cozy, spicy patchouli-vanilla on my skin.
Voyage doesn’t change substantially for quite a while. By the middle of the 5th hour, it smells completely of a patchouli Kulfi, accompanied by a small whisper of cardamom-vanilla Chai. All vestiges of suede have vanished; the woodiness is heavily muffled; but tendrils of smoky darkness remain at the edges. In my second test, though, one arm emitted strong waves of balsamic resins wrapped up with golden smokiness in a way that was reminiscent of the middle and drydown phases in MPG‘s Ambre Precieux Ultime, and the scent was far less driven by vanillic creaminess.
On both arms, the vanilla’s custardy aspect begins to fade when the 8th hour rolls around, and Voyage moves away from a patchouli version of Kulfi. The mandarin reappears and gradually grows stronger. By the start of the 8th hour, the fragrance smells like a spicy orange Gulab Jamun, thanks to the cardamom, ginger-dusted patchouli, and vanillic sweetness. It lies atop a golden base of cinnamon-y benzoin, but there is still ample dryness and spice to keep things away from the gourmand side. I’m a sucker for Gulab Jamun, but the dessert can be painfully syrupy and far too much so for my personal tastes as a scent to wear, so I’m relieved that Voyage never approaches that level of sweetness. Instead, it’s a delectable, cozy, inviting mix of spicy, lightly smoked, golden sweetness that I find to be utterly addictive.
A very different Voyage unfolds when the drydown begins at the start of the 11th hour. It begins with patchouli laced with smokiness, bearing occasional overtones of chocolate-y cocoa, and nestled within a golden cocoon. It continues to bear a soft streak of vanilla, but it’s slowly fading away to reveal an underlying layer of balsamic, sticky resins. They smell like quietly smoky Peru balsam mixed with a cinnamon-y benzoin, and they grow stronger with every passing moment. They turn Voyage darker, drier, less sweet, and devoid of any dessert-like aspects. By the start of the 13th hour, the smoke and resins have eclipsed everything else and become Voyage’s sole focus, leaving only a sliver of goldenness at the edges. In its final moments, all that is left is a dark sweetness.
Voyage had excellent longevity on my skin, soft projection, and initially moderate sillage that turned soft over time. I was sent a mini-atomizer and using several spritzes equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance opened with roughly 3 to 4 inches of projection and about 4 inches of sillage, though the scent trail grew as the fragrance oils melted into the skin. After 35 minutes, Voyage extended about 6-8 inches around me. The numbers dropped after 90 minutes: the projection was between 1.5 and 2 inches, the sillage extended approximately 3 to 4 inches. The fragrance stayed there for quite a while. Voyage only became a skin scent on me after 6.75 hours, but it was still easily detectable up close and without much effort for several more hours. In total, it lasted 14.5 hours, but even longer (about 16.5 hours) when I applied a larger quantity. Hiram Green really has a knack for doing magical things with longevity and sillage that is quite unlike what happens with any other brand of all-natural fragrance on my skin.
I really loved parts of Voyage, and I’m strongly considering buying a bottle for myself. Actually, I almost did so the other night but I held off, solely because I wasn’t quite so interested in the smoky balsamic version that appeared on one arm as I was in the cardamom patchouli-vanilla Kulfi and the Gulab Jamun that dominated the other for long stretches of time. Still, I suspect I’ll give in anyway, since I tend to have a rather nervous reaction to the words “limited edition” and “only 250 bottles” when it comes to things I really like. Plus, I think Voyage is reasonably priced for the quality, richness, and depth. The 50 ml bottle costs €111,50 without VAT for non-European customers or €135 with VAT. Right now, pre-ordering from Hiram Green nets you a free 5 ml decant as well. (Franco of Luckyscent has told me that they will offer a 5 ml decant, too, once Voyage arrives there but only for the first 20 orders. [Update 10/19: Luckyscent now has Voyage available for pre-order.]) Lastly, the Euro is at such a low rate that your savings help to make up for the €20 shipping fee to America.
In short, I strongly recommend Voyage if you love either spicy patchouli, “cozy comfort” winter fragrances with a delicious streak of gourmand vanilla, or strongly spiced, deeply resinous scents. Be a little patient with the first hour, and you’ll be rewarded with all that follows. It transported me back to India in a way that was both evocative and delicious.
Disclosure: My sample was courtesy of Hiram Green. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.