A golden, ambered sun peeks out from the clouds at the edge of a grey sea. Thickened, buttered waves of iris unfold like the most expensive suede, undulating under skies shot through with sweetened smoke. An iris flower floats on the surface, making a voyage from its cool, damp, earthy cellar towards the sun which warms it, turning it sweeter and sprinkling it with sweetened heliotrope. At times, the sun peaks out like golden eyes from behind the sheer veil of cool suede and warmed powdered sweetness. A giant orb of goldenness, speckled with ambergris, red resins, and candied delights. It shines upon the iris as it makes its journey and finally arrives at a distant shore of sweetness that cocoons it like the softest whisper of pink and white cashmere silk. These are the voyages of the Starship Iris, better known as Khôl de Bahreïn.
Khôl de Bahreïn is a fragrance from a new niche perfume house, founded by a man who has been making perfumes for quite a long time. Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 is the new venture of Stéphane Humbert Lucas who was the in-house perfumer for Nez a Nez and SoOud. Mr. Lucas launched his new brand in 2013, along with 7 fragrances, all of which are inspired by the Middle East and their style of perfumery. Khôl de Bahreïn (which I’m going to henceforth write without all the accentuation and carets) was one of those scents.
There isn’t a ton of information out there about the perfume. Stéphane Humbert Lucas’s website is under construction, but his Middle Eastern distributor, Sagma, describes the scent as:
Blend of amber benzene.
Unguent with an intense trail.
Heavy perfume, unctuous, amber, reference to kohl and to the zenjar used in the region of Bahreïn.
First in Fragrance has more details, along with Khol de Bahrein’s notes:
Khôl de Bahreïn offers a blend of ambergris and resinous notes which create a balsamic-woody fragrance with an intense and lasting wake.
Top Note: Violet, Gourmand Notes, Resins
Heart Note: Iris, Sandalwood, Ambergris
Base Note: Musk, Balsamic Notes
Khol de Bahrein opens on my skin with a burst of sticky, dark resins that have a caramel, nutty aroma. Almost immediately, the iris appears on their heels. It feels like the most expensive, thick, orris butter imaginable, and has a smell that is simultaneously: slightly cool, earthy, buttery, deep, and warm, all at once. Something about it evokes the feeling of velvety petals — grey and black — along with thick, grey suede. The minute it arrives, the amber and resins take a step back to let the iris shine in the spotlight. Yet, subtle hints of benzoin sweetness lurk around the flower’s edges, as if candies are about to rain on earthy iris fields any moment now. A tiny wisp of smoke adds yet another paradoxical layer in this extremely unusual combination.
Five minutes in, the sweet elements seem to tire of their brief wait on the sidelines and flood center stage to crowd around the dark floral. I can’t really place the notes, as they are definitely not the “nougat” that I saw on one site’s ingredient list. “Caramel” doesn’t really fit exactly either, though it is closer. Perhaps, the best way to describe it is as vaguely sticky ambergris and toffee’d balsamic resins.
Yet, for all the sweetness of the accord, Khol de Bahrein doesn’t verge on the gourmand for me. First, the competing elements are very carefully balanced, but, second, and more importantly, the iris counteracts the candied resins with its earthy coolness. It is a very refined note that conjures up images of a single flower growing in the slightly damp earth of a darkened cellar. Yet, it’s neither icy nor crypt-like. There is nothing fusty, carrot-y, or dank about it, either. Just plenty of cool notes with heavy suede and creamy butter.
Something about the combination of iris with sticky resins feels very unique to me, though I grant you that I don’t have extensive knowledge of the iris category. In fact, I wholly lack the iris appreciation gene, but I spend the next few hours being utterly amazed by the note in Khol de Bahrein. It really feels like an actual “butter” version of the flower with a heavily creamed richness that I haven’t encountered in other iris scents. Not even in Nuances, the limited-edition, ridiculously expensive Armani Privé Les Editions Couture iris soliflore that supposedly had the richest, most expensive, concentrated iris as its focus.
On my skin, in the opening period, the iris butter pretty much trumps everything. Violets are listed Khol de Bahrein’s notes, but I generally didn’t detect them. However, they did appear briefly the very first time I wore the perfume when I only applied a few dabs of Khol de Bahrein. It was a dewy, earthy, pastel, delicate note, but it was short-lived. When I applied a greater quantity of Khol de Bahrein, it certainly couldn’t seem to stand up to the strength of the other accords.
What was interesting about that first test was something else that happened. From the first instant, there was an utterly addictive, sweet, powdered amber. I’m not a particular fan of iris, and I’m also not enthused by powderiness either, but, I tell you, I simply could not stop sniffing my wrists. I felt almost crazed at times by the draw of Khol de Bahrein, and I’ve finally figured out what was the lure: it smelled like an ambered form of heliotrope.
Now, heliotrope is not listed on Khol de Bahrein’s notes, but something in one of those resins (undoubtedly a benzoin-based one) really recreates the smell of heliotrope to a T. And I’m a sucker for the note. Wholly addicted. I love its vaguely floral, powdered sweetness which always visually translates in my mind as a comforting pink and white cocoon. In fact, Fragrantica‘s great explanation of the note brings up its “characteristic, comforting scent.” Heliotrope has an powdery odor profile which can range from a vanilla meringue, to almond marzipan, tonka vanilla, and more. As Fragrantica put it,
The characteristic comforting scent of heliotrope has been proven to induce feelings of relaxation and comfort, a pampering atmosphere that finds itself very suited to languorous oriental fragrances and delicious “gourmands”.
I’m spending so much time on this because, in my opinion, that aroma is one of the secret keys to Khol de Bahrein’s beauty. In my first test, using very little of the perfume, Khol de Bahrein immediately wafted the most delicious, tasty, heliotrope amber confectionary aroma with just the perfect balance of sweetness and powder. It reminded me of a tonka-covered amber orb that glowed like candlelight in a cozy, warm, vanilla cocoon.
Khol de Bahrein gets to the exact same point eventually with the larger dosage, but there is a lengthy iris butter period that you have to get through first. Since, as noted above, I’m not a particular fan of iris scents, I don’t find it deeply compelling, but it’s very hard to deny the quality of the note. I’m actually quite riveted by the sheer opulence and richness of the flower. I repeatedly thought to myself that it felt like the sort of thing that Roja Dove would do, and I mean that as a compliment.
Thirty minutes in, that golden amber tantalizes me with its nearness and elusiveness. It lingers just out of reach on the horizon, like a gauzy veil of caramel that has been thinly lacquered onto a glowing orb of musky, vaguely salty, deep ambergris which is then lightly dusted with vanillic benzoin powder. Slowly, slowly, the amber sun starts to warm up the cool iris waters, softening their damp, aloof, earthiness. The flower turns more powdered, as if it were shaking off white pollen in the sunlight, but the predominant feel is of thick orris butter.
The amber’s promise lies hidden not only behind that note but also behind a new arrival on the scene: smokiness. It’s very subtle at first, but it’s definitely there. To my nose, it doesn’t smell like black frankincense but, rather, like sweet myrrh (opoponax). It’s a surprisingly sharp note, but also sweetened and vaguely nutty in undertone.
As a whole, Khol de Bahrein smells from afar like heavily sweetened iris, warm powder, sweet and incense lightly flecked by caramel resins and goldenness. The perfume is really potent up close, and very heavy in feel, with initially good sillage that wafts about 2-3 inches above the skin. By the end of the first hour, the sillage drops further, and Khol de Bahrein turns into a beautiful, seamless blend of ambered iris with subtle traces of sweetened iris powder and sweetened smoke. Yet, none of it feels gourmand. The perfume screams refinement and luxuriousness to me, not dessert or candy.
Khol de Bahrein is largely linear in nature with the main changes over time being the order and concentration of the notes, along with the perfume’s overall warmth and texture. The iris continues to lose its cool edge and that feeling of thick orris butter. It turns more and more into pure suede, at first thickly plush and heavy, then lighter as it sinks into the base. Khol de Bahrein’s sillage drops to just above the skin at the 90 minute mark. Around the same time, the amber sun finally comes out from behind the grey clouds, and the perfume now feels like vaguely irisy, powdered amber, instead of iris that is merely tangentially ambered. Something about Khol de Bahrein’s new golden aura strongly brought to mind Histoires de Parfums‘ billowy Ambre 114. I think anyone who enjoys the latter’s ambered softness, while also loving rich iris butter, would definitely love the combination of the two notes in Khol de Bahrein.
As the perfume continues to realign itself, that addictive part that I talked about earlier creeps closer and closer. About 2.5 hours in, the heliotrope impression finally arrives on the scene. Again, the perfume list does not mention heliotrope at all, but something in the benzoin resin alluded to by the Sagma distributor definitely recreates that smell. Khol de Bahrein is now sweetened, almost vanillic powdered amber with touches of sweetened suede that is lightly flecked by an equally sweet incense. It’s a bit like Ambre 114 with incense, but with every passing moment, a much stronger comparison would be to Guerlain‘s Cuir Beluga.
By the end of the 3rd hour, Khol de Bahrein is a dead ringer for Cuir Beluga on my skin, only with a touch of nebulous, abstract, incensey smoke. It has lost its ambered focus, and turned into pure “heliotrope” with sweetened suede. Khol de Bahrein doesn’t have heliotrope’s almond or marzipan nuances, but reflects instead its cozy, comforting, vanilla meringue facets. The amber now manifests itself largely as a sort of warmth which works really well with the textural softness of the “heliotrope” (or whatever resin is mimicking it). As a whole, the perfume feels like the cuddliest, cashmere blanket. Since heliotrope always visually translates in my mind to pink and white hues, the perfume now does the same.
I find it all utterly addictive, but I wish it weren’t so soft and discreet. The same problem that I had with Cuir Beluga is manifesting itself here, with a scent that lies right on the skin. That said, Khol de Bahrein is much stronger and more intense in its notes when sniffed up close. In fact, whenever I thought it had turned into a skin scent, I was surprised to detect little tendrils in the air about me. In particular, whenever I moved my arm or walked about, I could smell that vanilla meringue suede as an elusive whisper trailing in the air. It’s not my favorite way to smell a perfume, but Khol de Bahrein’s sheer weight and soft sillage turn out to be quite misleading in terms of the perfume’s strength.
Khol de Bahrein feels like undulating waves in more than one way. First, there was the iris butter that lapped about the shores. Then, as the iris retreated from its cool earthiness, the grey suede moved in. Later, the amber, and then, the “heliotrope”-like, benzoin meringue powder. Shortly after the start of the 6th hour, the waves change again, and the perfume turns drier. There are fluctuating levels of smokiness. Or, rather, the smokiness reappears again in a much stronger way, now that the heliotrope-like powdered sweetness has ebbed. Khol de Bahrein suddenly feels like a much drier, darker, somewhat smoky version of Cuir Beluga. It is also a true skin at this point, and its subtleties are much harder to detect.
The subtle smokiness and incense don’t last long, however. Perhaps an hour at most. Then, Khol de Bahrein returns to its main core of powdered sweetness. The impression of iris suede as an underlying base vanishes completely. The perfume lingers as the silkiest, thinnest, gauziest breath of sweet benzoin on the skin for several more hours, until it finally dies away entirely about 12.5 hours from the start.
Frankly, I was amazed that it lasted so long, because it really is such a discreet, intimate scent for a good portion of its lifespan on my skin. Khol de Bahrein feels like the sort of fragrance that many people would think had only good longevity, not an excellent one, because they wouldn’t be walking around with their nose on their arm. However, I’m sure that spraying and the use of a large amount would help matters, as the perfume really is quite concentrated when smelled up close.
I think Khol de Bahrein is a really lovely, luxurious, very expensive-smelling fragrance, and I say that as someone with little personal appreciation for iris. I do think, however, that it skews feminine. My reasoning is that I don’t see the vast majority of men really being into powdered iris as the dominant focus for their fragrance. I admit, it’s a wholly subjective, personal interpretation, and I certainly know some men who adore Cuir Beluga, as well as many iris-centered fragrances. I’m sure a few would thoroughly enjoy a more iris-y, oriental, less gourmand, and, at times, more smoky take on Cuir Beluga. For the vast majority of men, though, I think Khol de Bahrein might feel a little feminine. It’s really going to come down to your feelings on both iris and powdery notes, not to mention skin chemistry.
One man who absolutely loves Khol de Bahrein is Mark Behnke who wrote about the perfume while he was the Managing Editor of CaFleureBon. Mr. Behnke first smelled the new Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 line at the Milan Esxence show in 2013, and Khol de Bahrein was the one which really piqued his interest. He liked it right from the start, but once he managed to test it fully and properly, he seems to have fallen quite in love. He actually called Khol de Bahrein one of the best perfumes of 2013:
after having worn it quite a bit I know it to be one of the best perfumes of this year and the best perfume of M. Lucas’ career, so far.
The name Khol de Bahrein refers to the dark eye makeup often seen in the Middle East and North Africa. Elizabeth Taylor sported kohl rimmed eyes for her portrayal of Cleopatra. Also they are often the only part of a Muslim woman you can see when she is out and about. The darkness around the eyes causing them to feel like they almost float within the hijab. M. Lucas has created a fragrance framed in darkness with the depth of a human eye in the middle. Khol de Bahrein is as mesmerizing as a hypnotist’s stare; you will find yourself lost in its spell.
The metaphorical eyes of Khol de Bahrein are as lavender as Liz Taylor’s were. The opening uses violet at the core but is surrounded with a resinous frame of dark incense. The one thing I appreciate about all of the Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 fragrances is there is no gentle step down to intensity. No flare of citrus or bergamot; instead it as bracing as stepping into a cold shower, it catches your attention. I love violet and the interplay of resins and violet are wonderfully woven. Then the purple of the iris deepened by the note of orris. Lush and opulent it is made buoyant with the addition of a creamy sandalwood and briny ambergris. This really feels like the real stuff on the ambergris, no ambrox here. The final touch of blackness comes from amber, balasamic notes, and musk. There is a feel of humanity in the last accord. The eyes may be all you see but they are worth getting lost within.
Khol de Bahrein has ridiculous almost 24-hour longevity and above average sillage. The sillage is surprising for something at extrait strength.
I hope this piques the interest of those of you who have never heard of M. Lucas. If you’re looking for a new perfumer to explore I can recommend nobody any higher. As one who has come to enjoy his style let me reiterate; Khol de Bahrein is the best perfume of M. Lucas’ career and one of the best new perfumes of 2013.
Mr. Behnke’s review is the only one I could find for Khol de Bahrein. The perfume has no comments on its Fragrantica page. There are also no reviews posted on Khol de Bahrein’s entry at Parfumo (a European sort of Fragrantica). However, there are a lot of votes for the perfume at Parfumo that I think you might find interesting, as they pertain to perceptions of overall quality, sillage, and longevity:
- Scent: 80% (12 Ratings)
- Longevity: 88% (12 Ratings)
- Sillage: 67% (13 Ratings)
An overall 80% favorability rating is really quite good, though I’m apparently not alone in my feelings about the sillage.
Khol de Bahrein comes with some drawbacks, primarily in terms of accessibility. This is a perfume that is a European and Middle Eastern exclusive, though American readers can test it easily by ordering a sample from Surrender to Chance. It’s not even widely available within Europe itself, with only a handful of distributors for the line. First in Fragrance is your best bet, and, thankfully, they ship worldwide.
The other issue is the price, though I think that can easily be justified when put into context. Khol de Bahrein costs €148 for a small 50 ml bottle. At the current rate of exchange, that comes to roughly $203, which is a teensy bit high for the size. However, Khol de Bahrein is a fragrance that its Middle Eastern distributor, the Sagma corporation, states is pure parfum extrait with 24% concentration.
Plus, there is that bottle. Judging by the photos, it looks gorgeous and I must say, I rather lust for it. Pure gold lettering and a gold metal cap with a Swarovski crystal. First in Fragrance has the full details on the very elaborate packaging:
Khôl de Bahreïn is presented in a transparent flacon with genuine gold lettering, gold cap and a small-faceted peach-coloured Swarovski crystal set on the stylized crown.
The 777 Metal cap
A raised honeycomb pressed against a dome reminiscent of two architectures (Ottoman and Russian) where the sharp point brings to mind the summit, the sacred. The triple 7 is continued on the ring of the cap, it signifies: Spirituality, protection, luck. The figure 7 is the author’s fetish. The 777 logo is also engraved within the heart of the honeycomb. The raised facets represent work, determination and well-being. The significant weight of the cap imparts respect and strength. The cap is hand-milled, anodised and varnished.
777 Coffret by Stéphane Humbert Lucas
The box has been created using a double-coated black leather effect paper decorated with hot-stamped letters and logo. The 777 theme is taken up on the interior of the flap, followed by a short poem written by the author.
So, to some extent, a small chunk of that €148/$203 price tag must stem from the packaging, but you shouldn’t forget about the Extrait concentration. Or the opulence of that iris butter which, frankly, probably costs more than any Swarovski crystal. When you consider that Tom Ford’s flimsy, anemic Atelier d’Orient eau de parfums are priced at $210 for the same size (but much simpler looking) bottle, Khol de Bahrein almost seems like a steal. And I won’t even bring up Armani’s suffocating, claustrophobic, painfully dull iris soliflore, Nuances, in its Privé Couture line. (It’s £500, if you’re interested.)
Is Khol de Bahrein a complicated, revolutionary, edgy scent? No. It’s not trying to be. It wants to be a refined, luxurious statement that reflects a Middle Eastern sensibility. As someone who has actually lived in the region, I found Khol de Bahrein to be as Middle Eastern as Guerlain — which is to say, not at all. However, it definitely reflects a French sensibility and the feel of French haute perfumerie. A highly refined scent with very expensive, pure ingredients that are blended seamlessly to create the feel of pampered luxuriousness. Plus, it happens to have cozily delicious parts on top of it all. If I were ever to wear an iris scent, it would probably be Khol de Bahrein. Really lovely!
[UPDATE 4/14/14 — Samples of the entire collection, including the new 2014 releases, were sent to me, and I’m going through them, one by one. If you’re interested in learning more about the line, you can read about the spectacular O Hira and the new 2014 releases, Qom Chilom (Morello cherries, latex, oud, cedar, heliotrope), Oud 777 (a total smoke monster with Cambodian Oud and leather), and the immortelle gourmand, Une Nuit à Doha. The rest of the original 2013 releases will be reviewed as well. All the fragrances are expected to be released in the U.S. in a few weeks. They will be carried by Luckyscent and Osswald NYC.]
I really appreciate you reviewing this perfume. I bought it in Dubai last June when it had very limited availability even there. I get a big honey note from it and compare it to Killian’s Back to Black. I never thought of it as an iris scent. The bottle is beautiful by the way. I am going to wear it tomorrow to compare to your comments.
Gosh, I imagine it would be even better if there were a big honey note! How interesting that that is what appears on your skin and not the iris. And how interesting that my skin — which normally amplifies *every* honey note or bit of sweetness around — chose to highlight the iris instead! Well, between you, me and Mark Behnke, it seems that the broad, overall parameters for the scent may differ from person to person in terms of the driving force, but, going by his review, the core essence might largely the same: golden amber of some kind. Honeyed for you, irisy for me, and violety-woody for him. I think that speaks to a very well-blended, almost prismatic perfume, as a whole.
How do you feel about the scent as a whole? Is it one of your favorites, a favorite in a particular genre, or just something middling?
Great to hear that the bottle is as gorgeous in person as it appears in the photos. I rather envy you for it. Give it a few admiring, loving strokes from me, will you? lol 😉 😀
Edited to add: I’ve been mulling over your Back to Black/Kilian comparison. Do you get tobacco notes from Khol de Bahrein??! What did you mean in terms of your comparison? I’m rather intrigued now. 🙂
I have to agree with my mom on this one, it definitely gives off a honey note on my skin. It is not as over the top honey wise as Back to Black but, they have a similar feel to my nose although it is has been awhile since we did the comparison so I can’t go into much detail. Maybe nancysg can elaborate. Glad you reviewed this one, it really is wonderful (and available all over the place here 🙂 ).
Interesting. Honey for you too. Well, I got caramel from the ambergris and toffee’d resins, but definitely no honey. For me, that has quite a different smell, so it’s probably a skin chemistry thing that accounts for the differences. Did you not get any iris either?
Fantastic review, Kafka. I found myself nodding along as I read. I have to admit to buying a bottle after reading Mark’s review – I love it. I do get violet from it, just a touch.
On me it is a powdery, ambery, violet/Iris fragrance with a hint of inkiness wafting around in there – your use of the word prismatic exactly captures its qualities. I assumed that the powder was simply white musk, but you’re right, it’s much nicer than that. I have no real idea what heliotrope smells like, but your description is very much what I get from Kohl de Bahrain.
I was a little taken aback at Nancysg’s reference to Back to Black, although it is a long time since I smelled it, I rember only cloying cherry/tobacco. It is one of the few Killians I disliked instantly. I had a similar reaction to the recent Puredistance Black – smoke AND stewed fruit – ergh.
I have only discovered your blog in the last few days and have been having a lovely time in the archives. Love your work.
By the the way, the bottle is quite attractive and not particularly blingy. There is only one miniscule Swarovski crystal on it. In this case I think the cost is pretty much all to do with the juice.
God, I’m so relieved to hear someone else gets iris, even if it is iris/violet! Thank God for you, as I was actually starting to wonder if my sample vial had been mislabeled after all the honey talk, not to mention Back to Black! Back to Black!!!! You reassure me that I’m not crazy. Ooops, I should probably have welcomed you to the blog first, Maggie, but I was just SO glad to read your comment. LOL.
Anyway, I’m so pleased you get that delicious powder (heliotrope-like) note as well. Your use of “inkiness” is also a lovely way to describe that subtle twinge of smokiness. And I’m happy to hear there is another enthusiastic Thumbs Up vote for the bottle. Pictures can be so misleading sometimes, not to mention gushing PR company descriptions. The only problem is that I now want the perfume more than I did before. 😉 🙂
As for Puredistance Black, the less said the better…. I got some grief for not hopping on the enthusiastic bandwagon for that one, but so be it. It also sounds to me as though you may share my disdain for purple patchouli which is what I call the very fruit-chouli, molasses, syrupy, fruited note. It accompanies SO many rose scents these days too, and it often feels as though there is no getting away from it. Ugh. Revolting stuff.
I look forward to getting to know you and your perfume tastes better, and I’m so glad you stopped by.
I am wearing the Kohl de Bahrain today. (And went all out – 4 sprays to get the full effect). Once again, I get a big honey note. I really wanted to smell the iris since I really enjoy wearing iris perfumes. The honey becomes rather caramel toffee (perhaps the dark resins you mention). It is the dark honey you can buy in Dubai that is incredibly rich tasting. None of that refined light colored sweetness.
When I get home tonight I plan to put on some Back to Black to compare. Will let you know how it plays out.
Because of the incredibly rich honey note, I have to be in the right mood to wear it. So I can’t say it an all time favorite fragrance. More that it is the perfect honey fragrance for me
Very interesting, Nancy. Does your skin generally amplify sweetness to an extreme degree? It sounds like the iris is completely drowned out on you. Do you get any suede? Any floral notes at all?
I have to say, your honey description sounds delicious, both in terms of the perfume and the kind that you can buy in Dubai to eat. 🙂
My side by side wearing of the Kohl de Bahrain and B to B reminds me why I went with Kohl de Bahrain! Back to Black is the refined light colored honey that was made from bees that only got pollen from cherry trees. And maybe a touch of tobacco field from across the way. Kohl is deeper and with twists and turns. But I still don’t get iris. It does seem to drydown to that plush feel reminiscent of suede, but I would not describe it as a suede scent.
I need to ask Dubaiscents about the honey she and I tried. It was a special type and I can’t remember the description. Opened up a new door of sweetness for me. I didn’t buy any because of the price (too much spent on perfume)!
Well, you and Dubaiscents certainly seem to have experienced a very different sort of fragrance than Mark Behnke, Maggie and me, but it’s all dependent on skin chemistry. These things happen. Your version sounds lovely. 🙂
Egads, this I must have! Right up my alley! As an iris lover, this piqued my interest and the more I read, the more I drooled. It may be a tad expensive to get the FB to sample so I shall be a good girl and order a sample from STC when they have their sale next, whenever it is. Wonderful review!
Honey, this perfume has your name written ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL over it! I thought of you so much while wearing it, you have no idea.
And, yes, I do think that buying a Full Bottle as an exercise in mere sampling may be a “tad expensive.” rofl.
Hajusuuri, I can reccomend this. I have been hoping to find my perfect iris for a long time. As I said in my comment above, as soon as I read Mark Behnke’s description, I felt that this might be it. It is.
I should probably temper my remarks by saying that I am not a huge iris lover, most of the usual suspects do nothing for me. It has to be something special, not your traditional iris. I own only one other, Cuir de Nacre, (which smells much more like iris than leather to me), and I won’t be looking for another, (unless ‘something special’ brings itself to my attention, of course – ha, not really an addict!)
Aaah, someone else who doesn’t have the iris appreciation gene…. Now I *really* have to welcome you to the blog, Maggie. 😉 lol
Whoooaaaa. You make this sound hypnotically good, Kafka. I love another iris scent from his Nez a Nez line of perfumes: Marron Chic. But this sounds even more gorgeous!! And for an extrait, I don’t it’s unreasonably priced at all. (Hmm, tempting.) 😉
It’s definitely a decent price in light of all the factors. As for Marron Chic, I’ve heard some very positive comments about it. I think you’d very much enjoy his new creation, so if you ever put in a Surrender to Chance order, you may want to keep it in mind. 🙂
I sniffed this line at Printemps in Paris and I loved Khol de Bahrein but it was O Hira that was the jewel of the line for me. Sweet honey, syrup, balsams, and resins, basically the nectar of the Gods. It broke my heart when I realized it was 580 Euros…
Sounds lovely, except for the price. Interesting about Printemps carrying it. I saw they had a photo of one of the bottles, the rose fragrance, I think, in Google images, but the Stephane Humbert Lucas line wasn’t listed on their website at all. I wonder if they still carry it, or if they merely don’t list it. Hm. Anyway, your O Hira sounds lovely.
These are gorgeous. I have 2022 Femme. One of the 777 range (I thought KholdB) is pretty much identical to SoOud Nur extrait.
I’ve heard some nice things about 2022 Femme. I only wish the line or samples were more easily available over here. Interesting point about the overlap between one of his new line and one from his old SoOud brand. I haven’t tried anything from SoOud yet, but I hope to do so eventually. 🙂
I must say I love the sound of an ambery iris (ambery anything to be honest). 😉
I’ll definitely put this on my list of things to try. 🙂
I’m with you on the ambery anything. 🙂 I hope you get to try it, Ines. If you do, let me know what you think.
Gorgeous and tempting review! Sadly I just don’t know iris very well, so imagining this is hard for me. With the exception of Prada’s Infusion D’Iris, those iris scents I have tried smelled like cold stone. Now this, sounds much different, and the comments about honey have me intrigued. I shall seek out a sample!!
I know exactly what you mean about iris being like cold stone, Tora! There is a very brief part of that here, but the perfume warms up really quickly with those sticky resins and amber notes. I’d love for you to try this, Tora. I think you might be impressed by the luxurious quality of it. Next time there is an STC, I’m going to remind you about Khol de Bahrein. lol
Thank you for the warm welcome, (twice!!) to the blog Kafka. My perfume tastes can be summed up fairly simply as follows – Huge. Floral. Orientals. Or even just oriental orientals, lol. My first perfume purchase, at the age of about 12, was Tabu, (yes, I am OLD – well, ish). In the ’80s I habitually wore things like Coco and the original Fendi Donna to work. When I wasn’t wearing those, it would be a nice chypre – Cabochard or Mitsouko (in extrait, easily available in those days, even here in Melbourne).
Having said all that, I am not, these days, interested in “vintage” and would no longer wear any of these. I appreciate the sophistication, and clarity of good modern niche. It’s always onwards and upwards to the next discovery for me. Oh, and I hate, and always have, Shalimar!
My take-away from what I have been reading here over the last few days; I must have a bottle of Chypre Mousse and something from Laurent Mazzone. The orchid is going straight onto the list as his new chypre when it turns up online. I am extremely interested in both Hard Leather and Black Oud but am slightly afraid they might be a touch too masculine for me, perhaps in this case I will sample (I almost never do).
As is his new chypre, of course and please excuse errant coma after sophistication. Both eyesight and typing bad, bad.
How wonderful to have a short-hand guide to your tastes. Thank you, that helps me get to know what you like much faster. Judging by what you’ve written, I *DEFINITELY* think you’d love Sensual Orchid, especially if you like a touch of sweetness which, judging by Khol de Bahrein, you do.) My other recommendations for you: Hedonist by Viktoria Minya. You really must try that one as well. I mean, make a beeline to anywhere which may carry it, and there are much more places now than there were when I first reviewed it. God, Sensual Orchid and Hedonist… superb! (My favorite out of the two would be Sensual Orchid, by a nose. If that had come out in 2013, I would have put it on my Best Of the year list, not just my personal favorites list.)
Do you never buy samples? Never? Oh dear. I don’t like recommending things if a person is going to incur huge expense with an actual bottle. Have you never considered Surrender to Chance which I know a few Aussies use? In terms of Hard Leather, I…. don’t think know. I don’t think I would recommend it to you. That opening can be tough on some people’s skins, and you haven’t mentioned anything really dirty as a scent. This one can be dirty.
Oh, and if you like honeyed ambers, you have to try Arabian Oud’s Kalemat! So affordable too, though not as much so to Australia. Have you tried anything from Andy Tauer’s line? I was thinking of his new PHI or his Rose Chyprée. Anyway, I have no idea why I’m suddenly giving you recommendations, and I’m sure you’ve already tried most of these, so I’ll just shut up now. lol
Thank you so much for taking the trouble to make recommendations for me. I had to laugh though when I saw Rose Chyprée, I know it is very popular but I tried it years ago when it first came out and my face literally screwed up with distaste, I could hardly believe how much I disliked it. I subsequently tried several others and unfortunately, I’m afraid Andy Tauer is one perfumer whose work I really can’t get on with.
Don’t worry, I won’t be rushing to buy bottles of Hard Leather or Black Oud. I don’t mind a bit of dirty but I don’t love oud and I fear HL will skew too masculine for my tastes. If (when) I get a bottle of Sensual Orchid I’ll include a couple of samples in the order.
Heh, we all have one house that doesn’t work for us. Thank you for letting me know one of yours. I think Hard Leather would definitely skew masculine, but not Black Oud. Sensual Orchid is your best bet though. If I weren’t already testing some perfume, I’d spray some on. Really sensual indeed.
Beautiful review, dear Kafka. We in the lurkers’ grotto have been thoroughly infused with the odors of animal excretions, smoke, birch tar, incense, oud and port wine during this long winter and are sniffing about for a breath of spring.
Violets you say? Oh yes!
This will go on the sample list of infinity. It’s a 50/50 chance for me as warm, sticky and amber become sweet, fetid and verging on rot on my skin. Not to say that this is necessarily a bad thing, but I can stew in my own juices for that experience. I’ll remind you that my unadulterated personal skin scent is Play-Doh, so perhaps you can understand my dilemma.
I have become a fan of iris, though, but I have yet to experience any of them as cold. Morbid, yes. I would actually like to experience a cold perfume. Perhaps there is a note that draws children to lick the monkeybars during recess in winter? Khol de Bahrein is definitely not that, but it does sound lovely and I always want to expand my horizons.
Thanks as always for taking the time to provide our community with your beautiful reviews and articles. They are truly works of art and enlighten and enhance my life, each and every one. Your prose, the art you carefully choose as illustration and your passion are truly mind-blowing. You are greatly appreciated.
You’re going to make me sniffle, Holly, with your extravagant, absolutely lovely compliments. Thank you. Such high praise, I almost don’t know what to do with myself. But thank you, really. I become awkward around compliments, so just know that it means a lot, especially after a very exhausting few weeks.
In terms of iris, I just HAVE to recommend something for you if you haven’t tried it already: Iris Silver Mist. You want an iris scent that is cold? This one starts off like iced vodka, then turns futuristic and, for some, crypt-like. That is the iris to end all irises, so given what you’ve written, it should be at the top of your list of things to try. It’s a legendary perfume for a reason; there is nothing quite like it.
It’s funny how you mentioned violets in your comment, given what I was testing/writing about at the time. As you’re bound to see, the latest review is for a violet scent…. 😉 😀
Do you ever order samples from the decanting services like Surrender to Chance? I’d really like for you to try Iris Silver Mist, and I don’t think I have my vial anymore. I am just dying to know what you’d think of that one, so I hope you’ll get the chance to test it soon. We have to get that list of yours whittled down! 🙂
I have not tried Iris Silver Mist due to the dreaded carrot. Carrot is perhaps the only note I truly despise. Many I’m not fond of, but carrot is an absolute no for me.
I order from STC to an extravagant degree, so for a few more bucks I’ll add Iris Silver Mist to my wishlist.
I hope your awkwardness due to my comments has passed. You might as well just face the fact that more will come your way. 🙂
LOL, I forgot about you and the carrots! That said, I still think it’s worth trying Iris Silver Mist, just for the experience and for the knowledge of how iris can be stretched to a whole new boundary level.
Ooh yes please, a “more smoky take on Cuir Beluga” sounds gorgeous, & would indeed interest me. To pay the price for the privilege on the other hand, not so much. BUT I agree that bottle is indeed to die for. 🙂 …
And I don’t know, but I think a good quality orris-butter on it’s own certainly has distinct nuances of heliotrope to it, even more so than benzoin IMO. But if KdB indeed has a ‘nougat’ note (as it’s been listed), I can easily see heliotropin being used as part of that accord.
I think you’d love this one, Julz. The smoky aspect is not significant though. Not at all, imo. But the suede definitely is, and I know how you like that part.
Always great to hear about a new house I knew nothing about. First, the bottle is beautiful. It *could* be so tacky, but it isn’t. Lovely. Second, you make this sound so appealing! Certainly, the discrete nature of it would be problematic for me, but I still want to try it – especially with the comparison to Ambre 114, which I quite enjoy. I never have really fancied myself as a big iris person, but the one that eventually had me come around was 28 La Pausa. When I first tried it many moons ago, I found it intriguing but couldn’t really wrap my head around how I felt. I gave away my sample, I think, and eventually tried another sample and I really really liked it. With each subsequent wear I’ve really enjoyed it. Which is all to say, 28 La Pausa really made me see the potential for Iris being something I could really enjoy in a perfume, even if I wouldn’t necessarily be persuaded to seek out an iris perfume. Very well-written review; certainly it was a joy to read. Have a happy weekend!
Thank you so much. I’m very glad you enjoyed the review. As for the discreet nature of Khol de Bahrein, it certainly isn’t as weak or discreet as the Chanel florals scents. I have a memory of trying 28 La Pausa, and this is about 10 times as concentrated as what I remember, not only in terms of the depth, but also the richness of the iris note. And I would say that it’s about 3 times as great in terms of projection, but then, my memory of 28 La Pausa is of a scent with really bad projection indeed.
28 La Pausa isn’t quite that bad on me in terms of projection/potency, but it is very discrete – even for a Chanel floral. I can’t help but love it anyhow. Not Coromandel love it, but love nevertheless. LOL.
So it’s *very* encouraging to hear that this is more potent! My trigger fingers are itching for another sample binge! 😀
Wellllllll, my dearest Kafka….I am getting my largish “sample” of this. You get another enabler’s pin.
“Sample”? Large-ish? Uh-oh…… *gulp* What does that entail, exactly? Is this a Basenotes thing, or an actual bottle? If the latter, then Gosh, I hope you like it. That’s quite an expensive “sample.”
As a side note, I was so, SOOOOOOOO taken by the handling, luxuriousness and refined nature of Khol de Bahrein that I wrote to Stéphane Humbert Lucas to see if I could buy samples of the rest of the line. He’s going to send me some! I’m quite excited. I think this is a line that has serious potential and class, if Khol de Bahrein is at all indicative of the others. And I myself am still quite tempted by Khol de Bahrein. Given my generally unenthused feelings on iris, I think it says something that the perfume has tugged at me like that and for so long.
Uh-0h, I think that I’m going to HAVE to sample this one- I absolutely love true iris, as well as heliotrope and amber. Powder, not so much, but your review is just so beautifully done that I’m dying to smell this… With my luck, this will be something I just HAVE to have, despite my empty wallet! 🙂
Yeah, powder isn’t my thing either, but this is a sweet heliotrope powder, not make-up powder, or fuddy-duddy, old, dusty powder. Definitely not baby powder either. More like dusted vanilla meringue powder, the sort you’d get on the old-style, hard, baked, French Meringues, if that makes sense. If you’re an iris lover, I think Khol de Bahrein is definitely worth a try. And the balsamic resinous base is very lovely too!
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Please allow me to say a word – I totally enjoyed reading your review of Khol de Bahrein. Very detailed and descriptive and it gave me a very good insight on how this perfume could smell on my skin.
I bet I would love it since iris and powder are my very good friends. Can you tell – is Khol de Bahrein similar to Guerlain Iris Ganache? The latter one is probably the most buttery of irises that I know.
I liked the read you provided and I hope I will be able to try Khol de Bahrein one day, seems like it’s worth a try (thought I’m afraid that if I try it my wallet won’t allow me to buy it, the price is a bit too steep for a student)
I haven’t tried the Guerlain, so I can’t compare. For what it is worth, the hardcore iris lovers I know who have tried Khol de Bahrein have loved it, quite passionately in a few cases. From what I know of your tastes, I think you would too.
My dear Lucas, in my opinion, it is not like Iris Ganache. Iris Ganache is much sweeter, less resinous and has the unmistakable Guerlinade base (which I get along with).
So I now have my largish “sample” of Khol de Bahrein in my hot little hands (ok, full disclosure…it’s 35 mLs out of the 50mL bottle and since i got more than half the volume, I also got the beautiful bottle). I wore Khol de Bahrein for the very first time today and whoa, holy powdered iris! I actually got no violet whatsoever…it went straight to powdery iris, balanced with light amber but with a resinous heft, and a sweetness that reminds me of the hard sugar coating of Jordan Almonds – sweet but not sticky and slightly nutty (not almondy so those who are leery of the almond accord have nothing to worry about)! The sillage is office scent appropriate. I had it on for about 7 hours (before shower) and during that time, the perfume stayed as fragrant during hour 7 as it did during the first hour.
The bottle is gorgeous and the juice is actually a light yellow and not the golden caramel color in some of the pictures.
On to O Hira next!
So, do you like it? Are you happy you got it or such a large sample of it? 🙂
Not like – LOVE! I’m glad I got the big sample 🙂 and I may have to replenish if it becomes an office scent staple. I used 3 sprays and I’m too lazy to do the math right now to see how long my sample will last me!
I’m so happy to hear that, my dear Hajusuuri. I really thought you’d love it, but one never knows. Perfume can really vary from person to person. And the bottle is lovely, isn’t it? I got one, and you know how I am NOT an iris person by any means. But there is something about Khol de Bahrein. That said, it is not my favorite from the line. That would be an equal tie between Black Gemstone and O Hira. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the latter when you try it. BTW, I think you would enjoy Soleil de Jeddah and Rose de Petra as well. I’ll be reviewing that last one in a day or two.
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Khol De Bahrein is a golden, ambered “heliotrope” on my skin. It’s not baby soft like the Oriza Legrand Heliotrope, but more dense, complex and layered. I also got a creaminess and a litte smidgen of waxiness, but I never felt that it smelled like make-up. The powderiness wasn’t stronger than the creaminess/ iris butter, but was enough to give me that feeling of the velvet you described.
I only used 2 sprays and the perfume enveloped me in a cloud of all of the above plus that elusive slightly gourmand, nutty note. In my opinion, it’s a comforting, bedtime, intimate pleasures, cooler weather type of fragrance.
I can’t say that it skewed feminine on my skin. Maybe it’s because all the balsamic notes and the ambergris kept it from seeming too sweet and/or floral.
Most of my perfumes are strong, bold orientals, so it’s really a nice change of pace to add a little velvet softness to my amber love. I definitely think it’s less airy on my skin than it seemed to be on yours, and I could still smell that warm ambery heliotrope on my skin without much effort the next morning. I’m loving it.
I loved reading this review.
It sounds absolutely fantastic on you, Ed. Much better than it does on me actually since I love heliotrope far more than iris. Once again, I find myself envying your skin. Thank you for sharing such a wonderfully detailed description of your experience. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. BTW, your scent descriptions have really improved since years ago and demonstrate a greater confidence in your nose than you had before. I’m delighted. Keep it up, my dear. xoxo