Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 O Hira: The Incredible Hulk of Ambers

Amber on steroids, if not the Incredible Hulk of ambers. That is O Hira, a stunning, super-powered, monster labdanum that would be worthy of its own character in the Marvel universe. O Hira is a simply spectacular extrait from Stéphane Humbert Lucas, and a scent which made me do an instant double-take the first time I smelt it. I actually said “ooohh!” and closed my eyes to better take in the tidal wave of richness. The molten, dripping, resinous juices were so beautifully honeyed, dark, leathery, and toffee’d, I was amazed. And, at a higher dosage, O Hira showed a naughty side that drove me quite wild. All I can say is, if I came across a man wearing O Hira, I’d want to rip his clothes off pretty quickly. I’m quite serious about that. I think O Hira on the right man or woman could be quite devastating.

Stéphane Humbert Lucas. Source: SHL 777 Facebook page.

Stéphane Humbert Lucas. Source: SHL 777 Facebook page.

O Hira is a 2013 parfum extrait released by the Paris niche house, Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 (hereinafter just referred to as “SHL 777” or “777“). Monsieur Lucas used to be the in-house perfumer for SoOud and Nez à Nez, but he launched his new house in 2013. All the 777 fragrances are created by Monsieur Lucas himself. Up until now, the line was exclusive to Europe, Russia, and Middle Eastern, but there is excellent news. The complete SHL 777 line will be coming to America in a few weeks, including new releases like Qom Chilom which I covered yesterday, the smoke monster, Oud 777 (which includes tobacco and leather touches), the mandarin-ginger-immortelle-tobacco scent, Une Nuit à Doha, and the stunning Black Gemstone which is one of the best fragrances that I’ve tried this year. They will all be carried at Luckyscent and Osswald NYC. I have samples of the complete line, thanks to the graciousness and kindness of Monsieur Lucas, and I will be going through them, one by one (though perhaps with some breaks and perhaps not all in a row) so that you will be well prepared when 777 hits the stores.

The 777 line. Source: Stephane Humbert Lucas.

The 777 line. Source: Stephane Humbert Lucas.

O Hira is an ode to amber. SHL 777 has no official notes for the fragrance, and the press release photos or website descriptions only say:

No Pyramid.
Remake of fossilized Amber
Primitive Scent – Pure – Rare – Intense – Dedicated to the amber lovers.

Source: Stéphane Humbert Lucas

Source: Stéphane Humbert Lucas

I’ve had some correspondence with Monsieur Lucas, and he elaborated a little further. He spent more than two years working just on O Hira, using complicated, classical techniques of “distillerie, effeuillage, glacis” on the most expensive raw materials. The fragrance is an extrait with 24% concentration, and is intended to be the richest soliflore around. No, there is no actual fossilized amber, so if you’re imagining something dug up from the bowels of the earth and dating from prehistoric times, you’d be mistaken. However, it’s clear to me from the scent that Monsieur Lucas has worked very hard with not only labdanum but some other materials, including a few really dark resins, to create a scent that is as dark and as heavy as if it really had been dug up from the earth.

Labdanum compiled into a chunk. Source: Fragrantica

Labdanum compiled into a chunk. Source: Fragrantica

This review won’t be a traditional review in the way that they are usually structured because O Hira is ultimately a soliflore devoted to labdanum and, thus, its core aroma is quite simple in some ways. So, I want to start by taking a few minutes to talk specifically about labdanum. It has a very dark, toffee’d, nutty, resinous, balsamic aroma that can often feel very honeyed. It can also sometimes have a masculine, leathery undertone, which is why some amber lovers I know aren’t particularly enthused by its distinctive, almost “dirty” aroma. For me, the visuals with true labdanum are dark brown, verging almost on black, and far from ambered gold. That brings to me a very important point.

Some of my regular readers may have noted that, in my reviews, I often write “labdanum amber” or “labdanum,” instead of simply saying “amber.” It’s not because I am OCD, but because I think the difference is enormous. A perfumer once told me, “only labdanum is real amber.” Someone else said words to the effect of, “a lot of fragrances listed as ‘amber’ today aren’t actually amber, because they’re not centered on labdanum. The note is either synthetic, or an approximation of amber through other means, like an accord using labdanum highly diluted with vanilla and benzoins to really become something else.”

Lava. Source:

Lava. Source:

Labdanum amber has a dark, dirty scent that is quite unique from many of the “ambers” listed even in the niche world, and it’s also completely different from ambergris. If you’re familiar with Dior‘s Mitzah, the opening of Serge LutensAmbre Sultan (minus the herbal nuances), parts of Tom Ford‘s Amber Absolute or Sahara Noir, and the more goaty, masculine, almost dirty parts of Amouage‘s Opus VI (separate from the Ambranum and Z11), then you’ve encountered labdanum. However, if you’ve tried Dior‘s Ambre Nuit or Profumum Roma‘s Ambra Aurea, then you’ve really experienced ambergris for the most part. And if you’re thinking about softer, gentler, or powdered ambers like Histoires de ParfumsAmbre 114, then you’re talking about the quasi-amber made up primarily of benzoins for an approximation of a golden amber. But it’s most definitely not labdanum amber, in my opinion.

Source: Huffington Post.

Source: Huffington Post.

O Hira opens on my skin with a tsunami of true, undiluted, super concentrated labdanum in all of its manifestations. It is heavily honeyed, almost boozy at times, completely brown and dirty, with a hefty, walloping amount of cinnamon mixed in. Within seconds, it turns smoky with what is clearly styrax, the darkest and most leathered of all resins (and a big base note in such fragrances like Guerlain’s Habit Rouge). I suspect there is also a massive dose of Tolu balsam (as there is in Shalimar and Opium’s base) mixed in as well. What I’m less certain about are the tobacco tonalities that grow increasingly noticeable as the minutes pass. Is there actual tobacco absolute in O Hira, or is it a subset of the very dirty labdanum amber? How much of the leathery undertones come from the styrax, as opposed to something else?

It’s really hard to know the extent to which some of the nuances in O Hira stem from labdanum’s natural characteristics — only amplified and teased out to show their individual character — or whether they are from other supplemental sources as well. Monsieur Lucas told me that there is styrax in O Hira, and he mentioned cinnamon aromas from benzoins as well, so it’s very clear that O Hira is not just labdanum. But where the labdanum ends and the other notes begin is hard to say, because this is one superbly blended fragrance.



Within minutes, new layers emerge. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some castoreum in O Hira because there is an absolute beautiful, velvety, very musky richness which appears. It is leathered, sharp, almost skanky, but also plush like velvet. The tobacco-like dirtiness also grows stronger, while the cinnamon fades. There is almost an incense-like whiff at the edges, though it probably stems from the styrax. Lurking deep, deep in the case, there is a subtle gingerbread note that smells like Siam benzoin as well.



For the most part, however, I would say that O Hira is a bouquet centered around MASSIVE amounts of labdanum, along with some styrax, tolu balsam, and a tiny touch of castoreum. I cannot begin to tell you the richness of the scent. When I applied several good, hefty sprays from my decant, I was overcome by memories of my beloved (vintage) Opium‘s base. At high doses, O Hira has the same walloping, sticky, dense, dripping viscosity as 1980s-version Opium (especially in the parfum concentration). It feels like the thickest sludge of darkened, smoky, treacly amber — and I use the word “sludge” as the highest compliment in this case.

A goat whose chest and beard are covered with labdanum. Source: labdanum-creta.blogspot. com

A goat whose chest and beard are covered with labdanum. Source: labdanum-creta.blogspot. com

At the same time, though, O Hira takes labdanum’s masculine, sometimes dirty underpinnings and heightens them to an extreme degree. For the first time since I reviewed Amouage’s Opus VI, I was transported back thousands of years to ancient times when shepherds would scrape the resin off the chests and beards of goats who had clambered on or around the rock rose. There is almost a sweaty, goaty quality to the labdanum, and it has a muskiness that feels almost animalic in the first hour. Interestingly, though, I didn’t detect anything similar when I applied only a small amount of O Hira. As I’m going to explain later in more detail, this is a fragrance that I think best shows off its nuances when you apply a lot of it. A few small sprays result in a scent that is much softer, less dense, less leathered, less dirty, and more cinnamon-like in aroma.

Henry VIII by Hans Holbein. Source:

Henry VIII by Hans Holbein. Source:

For me, O Hira is unlike the other rich ambers on the market. It’s extremely different from Ambra Aurea which is a primarily an ambergris soliflore, though O Hira does have the same very opaque, dense, concentrated richness. O Hira isn’t like Tom Ford’s Amber Absolute or Sahara Noir, either, because both of those scents are heavily infused with incense. If you took Amber Absolute’s core (without the frankincense), combined it with a stripped down version of Dior’s Mitzah (without that fragrance’s supporting players), injected the two with vintage Opium’s resinous base, boiled the whole thing down to its most reduced, sticky, balsamic form, and then injected it with steroids, you would get O Hira. It is such a fatty, over-the-top, super-saturated, dark, monster amber that it feels indulgent enough for someone like Henry VIII.

And it’s so damn sexy. When I applied a lot of it, the castoreum in the base exuded a muskiness that was not only very leathered, but also rather brazen and verging on the skanky. There was a seductiveness that once again called to mind vintage Opium’s base with its lusty, bold, take-no-prisoners, raw sensuality. I just wanted to slather O Hira on someone’s neck, lick it off, and then rip off their clothes. I mean it, O Hira got me quite hot and bothered at times.

The scent only becomes better as the minutes pass. The tobacco and leather tonalities are joined by something almost verging on dark chocolate, followed by a definite flicker of salty, black licorice after about 20 minutes. The whole thing feels so dark, it verges on the brown-black in hue, and is incredibly far removed from the golden palette of many “ambers” that I’ve tried. It also feels very masculine, though women who love dark, dirty, smoky, heavy, balsamic orientals should adore it as well.

As a soliflore, O Hira doesn’t change in its core bouquet or essence — but then it’s not meant to. O Hira seeks to focus on one central note, shown in all its facets; one very simple thing heightened to its most luxurious depths. However, it’s clear to me that a lot of different parts were melded and fused together to create this seemingly monolithic, dense, heavy, “amber” aria. This is the sort of fragrance that sings at operatic levels, like a Middle Eastern Valkyrie belting out her final passion on a funeral pyre. You know how I’m always going on about wanting my fragrances to be Wagnerian in nature? Well, this is it. O Hira is definitely The Ride of the Valkyries.

Artist: Helen Abbas, Mosaic Collection, Summer 2013, "(Erdowaz) Slate." Source: (Website link embedded within photo.)

Artist: Helen Abbas, Mosaic Collection, Summer 2013, “(Erdowaz) Slate.” Source: (Website link embedded within photo.)

Even if O Hira’s main note is unwavering labdanum, its nuances and layers most certainly change. After 30 minutes, the sometimes intense smokiness from the styrax pipes down a few notches. Or, perhaps, it merely infused every one of the other notes in such a way that it seems softer. At the same time, the honey and cinnamon tonalities take a step back, while the musky, toffee’d leather and tobacco undertones take a few giant leaps forward. O Hira also turns fractionally softer and airier in feel. On occasion, the perfume feels smoother, as if some of the edges had been buffed out. At other times, however, O Hira continues to feel like an intentionally raw, almost brute-strength amber. It’s merely dialed down from a 10 on the Richter scale to a 9. The drop is slightly bigger for O Hira’s density, however, moving from a solid 10 in the opening minutes to about a 7 after 40 minutes.

O Hira is massively potent at the start with very big sillage. I will try to give you a sense of things, but it will be hard to use my usual numbers for application or quantity. The decant I was sent had a slightly wonky spraying mechanism which wasn’t very smooth when pressed down and only gave out half-squirts, rather than a more usual, fluid spritz. Using 5 half-spritzes or roughly the equivalent of 2 big sprays from an actual bottle, O Hira projected out a good 5 inches at first, before it softened at the end of an hour to about 2 inches above the skin.

When I used a lesser amount — similar to one and a half very large sprays from a proper bottle or 3 wonky spritzes from my atomizer — things were slightly different. The projection dropped a little, and O Hira wafted out only about 2-3 inches at the start, though that is still quite good. The more noticeable difference, however, pertained to the notes. At the lower dose, O Hira became a much softer, less sticky scent with a slightly different set of nuances. It was slightly cleaner, less dirty in feel, with little of the castoreum muskiness, and none of the more brute, goaty undertones to the labdanum. The cinnamon was stronger; the styrax’s smokiness was much softer; there was much less tobacco in the undertones; no licorice nuance; and the more viscous, sticky, dense resemblances to Opium’s base largely vanished. To try to explain it in terms of visuals, O Hira felt less solidly brown-black, and more bronze-gold.

part of "The Blooming Tree," Painting by Osnat Tzadok, via

part of “The Blooming Tree,” Painting by Osnat Tzadok, via

O Hira shifts over time in terms of its nuances and the prominence of its individual layers. However, it’s hard to give a clear description of what happens because each time I’ve worn the perfume, the layers are different at different times. The notes also feel a bit circular, in that they come back around just when you think they had died or retreated to the sidelines. For example, in one test, the tobacco seemed to fade away about 2.5 hours into O Hira’s development, though the leather remained, and the cinnamon from one of the benzoins grew much stronger. O Hira was softer, smoother, and had almost a creamy feel to it which was unexpected. O Hira lost a lot of its stickiness and opaque density, became airier, felt sheerer, and hugged the skin much more. However, it was still extremely potent when smelled up close.

That was one occasion, but, on another, the tobacco and leathered smokiness were still subtly blasting away well into the start of the 7th hour. In fact, much of O Hira’s progression of notes was different, starting with labdanum that felt practically boozy at the start, and which then transitioned into heavy cinnamon-labdanum, before ending up as darkly leathered, tobacco’d, toffee labdanum. In short, the order of the perfume pyramid was up-ended.

"Black Widow v1" by *smokin-nucleus. Source: DeviantArt. (Website link embedded within photo.)

“Black Widow v1”
by *smokin-nucleus. Source: DeviantArt. (Website link embedded within photo.)

There are only two consistent aspects to O Hira. First, its primary bouquet from start to finish is some manifestation of dark labdanum — in all its various, complex nuances — with resins. Second, O Hira consistently lasts over 11 hours. With a lesser quantity, O Hira’s longevity clocks in at about 11.5 hours. With a higher dosage (the equivalent of 2 sprays from an actual bottle, or much more), O Hira has lasted up to 14.5 hours on my perfume consuming skin. The sillage is always monstrous at first, but it generally drops to about 1-2 inches above the skin which is where it stays for hours and hours. On average, O Hira turned into a complete, true skin scent on me about 7 hours in with a large quantity, and 5.75 hours into its development with a small amount.

In a way, the best way to sum up O Hira is in terms of the images or moods that it evokes. Depending on which one of the notes dominates on your skin, O Hira can either be lavishly rich and indulgent, in an opulent manner worthy of Henry VIII, or positively sensual, brazenly seductive, darkly raw, brutal, and oozing pure, animal sex appeal. It’s a surfeit of riches, either way, and honestly feels like amber on steroids. I think it’s the Incredible Hulk of ambers, but I’ve been mulling over the possibility that it may be Iron Man instead.

Antoni Gaudi chairs at Casa Mila, La Pedrera, Barcelona. Source:

Antoni Gaudi chairs at Casa Mila, La Pedrera, Barcelona. Source:

The reason is that there is a definite refined intelligence to how O Hira’s notes have been put together, an attempt to have some sense of luxurious refinement that goes beyond mere brute strength or primal rawness. Speaking purely for myself, I think Tom Ford’s ambers verge more into the brute force category, and have some synthetics that prevent the scents from feeling quite as pure. To me, his ambers are potent and rich, but they don’t evoke luxurious opulence and refinement in quite the same way. They also don’t smell as if the most expensive raw ingredients have been used in almost undiluted form, which is the sense I get with O Hira. In short, O Hira feels much more sophisticated, expensive and nuanced. To me, it has class. It feels like a European’s baroque, almost Gaudi-esque interpretation of “death by amber.”

O Hira may have been released in 2013, but I couldn’t find any reviews of the scent to provide you with a comparative assessment. O Hira doesn’t even have an entry on Fragrantica at this time. In fact, at the time of this post, it’s not widely available outside of Harrods and Paris’ Printemps. That will change in 2-3 days time when, I’ve been told, Germany’s First in Fragrance should receive O Hira, along with several of the new 2014 fragrances. As noted at the start of this post, the complete SHL 777 line will be released in the U.S. in roughly 2 weeks time.

The bad news in all this is that O Hira is very expensive. I mean, seriously expensive. I don’t have the official American pricing information but, in Europe, O Hira’s retail price is a hefty €580 for a 50 ml bottle of pure parfum. I have heard rumours and talk that O Hira will cost $795 in the U.S., but none of that has been confirmed. The bottom line is that O Hira is going to cost you a lot, regardless of the currency that you use. It is certainly too rich for my blood. As a general rule, and regardless of the brand, I have difficulty with nosebleed prices like these — but I find it even harder when it comes to something that is a soliflore.

O Hira’s quality and luxuriousness, though, make the math much more difficult and complicated. There is absolutely no question in my mind that the most expensive ingredients have been used in O Hira, that great care was taken with complicated techniques, and that none of it came cheaply. I can fully understand why it took more than 2 years to finesse raw materials used in such intense quantities, so that the end result would be something nuanced and so spectacularly rich. I can see it, I can smell it, and I have no doubts at all. But it’s still too expensive, in my opinion.

At the end of the day, however, it all comes down to what I’ve now decided to call the “Roja Dove Rule“: it’s going to be a personal calculation that comes down to each individual’s subjective valuation and tastes — and the extent to which the fragrance in question brings them to their knees such that the price becomes worth it to them.

All I can say is that O Hira is absolutely worth sampling and, if possible, getting in a decant. It’s the bloody Incredible Hulk of Ambers. I think that it’s in a class all of its own.

Disclosure: Perfume sample courtesy of Stéphane Humbert Lucas. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.

Cost & Availability: O Hira is an Extrait or pure parfum that is only available in a 50 ml bottle and costs €580. The 777 line should be at Luckyscent and Osswald NYC by the end of April 2014. [Update 5/2/14 — Osswald has now received the 777 line. At this time, O Hira will be available by request only.] Outside the U.S.: Currently, the Stéphane Humbert Lucas’ website is under construction, and doesn’t have an e-store. The best online resource is First in Fragrance which currently has about half of the SHL 777 line, and will soon be receiving the newer releases as well. O Hira is not yet in stock at the time of this review, but should be in a few days. In London, you can find the entire collection at Harrod’s Black Room, while in Paris, they are exclusive to Printemps under the name 777. Zurich’s Osswald also carries the line, but I don’t think they have an e-store any more. The Swiss perfumery, Theodora, also has SHL 777, but no e-store. In the Middle East, has about 6 of the earlier fragrances which it sells for AED 1,500. In the UAE, the SHL 777 line is available at Harvey Nichols and at Bloomingdales in the Dubai Mall. In Russia, SHL 777 is sold at Lenoma. Ukraine’s Sana Hunt Luxury store also carries the line, but they don’t have an e-store. Samples: None of the U.S. sample sites currently carry this fragrance, but Luckyscent and Osswald NYC will be your best option once the SHL 777 perfumes are released in America. Osswald used to have a great sample program where you could try any 10 fragrances in relatively large vials for a mere $20, with free shipping. However, that program is only available to U.S. customers, and, more importantly, it may have recently changed. Looking at the Sample section on the website now, there is no set deal, and pricing depends on the cost of the particular perfume in question. They range from $3 a vial up to $9 a vial for fragrances that cost over $300. You can call Osswald at (212) 625-3111 to enquire further as to the situation.

67 thoughts on “Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 O Hira: The Incredible Hulk of Ambers

  1. Wow. Just. . .wow. I would love to try this study in base notes. This “no pyramid” sounds incredible. And your review? I read the first paragraph aloud to my husband. You’ll be inspiring many a man to try this with “if I came across a man wearing O Hira, I’d want to rip his clothes off. . .”!!

    As to the “Roja Dove Rule,” I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. First off, I applaud perfumers who choose to use top quality ingredients. I applaud artists and artisans who demand to be paid well and who make high quality products, especially when they two are paired. Unfortunately, I am able to afford them less and less, even in tiny decants (as they do indeed add up).

    That’s okay. I’ve read plenty of fine art reviews without once thinking “Oh I *want* that!” It never occurred to me to want to own, say, a Rothko or a Cy Twombly. I do own some great original artwork; artists at the beginnings of their careers, for example. And then, we let those we’ve discovered fly away.

    I’m not sure that’s an apt comparison, but it’s starting to feel as if it is (or at least close enough).

    • Hm, maybe I should have said “some men,” because I’m suddenly having some terrible visuals. There are men for whom no amount of O Hira would make me want to do anything! LOL. 😉 😀 I’m going to definitely ponder the phrasing, because I *DO* have standards, dammit! LOL.

      You know, your art comparisons are very apt, imo. Perfume at these levels are often created TO BE art. Art with a capital A, and so the prices are often justified in that way. If we want niche to be really good and if we believe in the “Perfume as Art” theory, then the very best of the perfumes will probably have prices commensurate to what comparable art would have.

      Like you, I read art reviews (though probably MUCH less than you do), and I’ve seen some paintings talked about which are lovely but I’d never once think I could possibly own them. You know, I’d give anything to own some Fabergé eggs, but I do think it’s a likelihood? Ha, no. So, I do understand your comparison and think it is very apt indeed.

    • Hello, it’s really a pleasure to read your review, and I found your analysis trustworthy, so here is a situation: I want to buy a fragrance that is an opulent, refined scent that smells luxury, so will O Hira do it because I’m about to blind buy it

  2. Loved reading this review. And M. Lucas is rather a dish, from that photo.

    That said, “massive dose of tolu balsam” is not-so-secret-code for “Kiss of Death” for me. $$$$$$ saved. 🙂

    • Mals, I thought of you NONSTOP while wearing O Hira. I kept thinking, “Mal would probably faint at one whiff of this. This would positively KILL her!!!” lol. I remembered full well your comments about Tolu Balsam and the Tolu Balsam in Opium. To be clear, it’s hardly the dominant note here, but there is certainly enough of it. There is even more of the styrax which I suspect you’d find to be ten times as difficult. lol. All in all, O Hira = Mals’ killer. 😉 😀

  3. My goodness gracious…and I thought I was done with my largish “sample” of Khôl de Bahreïn (don’t have it yet but will in a few weeks) and now another one that piqued my interest. I guess a trip to OsswaldNYC is in order once the line arrives! Did you know OsswaldNYC now has spray samples? I got one of Profumum Sorriso – fatty-creamy-vanilla and I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on a sample to test it out “my way” — I’ll post a comment on your review of it once I’ve properly tested it.

    Back to O Hira — What did his royal highness think? Did he lick you like an ice cream cone?

    • I think you’d like this one, Hajusuuri. And I’m absolutely certain that it would blow Daisy away. 🙂 As for OsswaldNYC’s samples, yes, I’ve seen photos of the new vials. However, they seem to have changed their special sample deal to make things individually priced, instead of the super 10 for $10, then subsequent 10 for $20 deal that they had up to just 2 weeks ago. That’s a shame, as it would have been a very affordable way to try several from the line.

      As for The Hairy German, it’s actually funny you asked, because he did seem to like O Hira quite a bit. Usually, he’s quite indifferent to what I wear (unless a lot of animalic musk is involved), but he actually responded quite intensely to O Hira, sat up, came over and gave me some serious sniffs. I’m telling you, that perfume seems to have some effect. lol

  4. I am a die heard amber lover and I own several great ambers,including Ambra Aurea which you turned me on to and which I absolutely adore.O Hira sounds amazing however I have a SERIOUS problem with the pricing.I don’t mind paying significantly extra for a perfume if I believe the raw materials used justify the price,a situation which I think is pretty rare.A notable exception for me are the perfumes of Neela Vermiere which contain real Mysore sandalwood among other costly absolutes.I’ve been an amateur perfumer for years and have a large collection of essential oils and costly absolutes and concretes mostly sourced from Trygve Harris at Enfleurage.I own most of the resins and ingredients you mention and I realize that we don’t really know exactly what’s in O Hira but if your guesses are right there is NOTHNG in there that would even remotely justify the cost.None of the resins even if they are special like a Givaudan Orpur are that expensive.A top quality labdanum absolute can be found for a little as little as 30$ an ounce.Styrax and Tolu are similar.The only natural materials I know of that are exorbitantly expensive are the rare florals such as narcissus absolute,boronia,or blue lotus for example.Rare oils such are real Mysore sandalwood and real Laotian oud add to the cost but we both know how rare it is to actually find those in perfumes.So it’s difficult for me to justify a markup probably in the area of 500-800% or more.And I realize that the artistry involved is worth something and I’m clearly not the intended clientele as I firmly fall on the Nyet! side of the Roja Dove rule but come on man! I feel like the wool is being pulled over peoples eyes(although if you’re rich I guess that doesn’t matter..)I’d love to see a site that analyzed the price per kg. of available perfumes.Wouldn’t that be a hoot. I feel badly for Neela because she’s gotten a lot of flak on the blogs for the price of her perfumes but believe her line is a rare case where the price is justified.Ok rant over! And I apologize I didn’t mean to detract for yet another amazing review by you.I truly look forwards to them and often experience an olfactory synesthesia just by reading them.Thanks for the review even if this aspirational pricing is getting way out of hand.And despite that I’d still like to at least try it…;)

    • I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, by and large. I really don’t. Like you, I fall on the “Nyet!” side of the Roja Dove rule (such a hilarious comment, btw). The thing is, I wonder to myself, how much am I ascribing and projecting my own financial situation onto all that? I’m not Donald Trump, but then neither are some people who seem to collect Roja Dove fragrances the way I collect books!! They buy Roja Dove one after another, in a way that makes me blink. So, clearly, SOME people think the perfumes are worth every penny.

      For me, as a reviewer, I’m in a bit of a quandary when faced with this endless line of increasingly expensive perfumes. I generally like to focus on exploring a perfume house I like across its line, and/or to review new things (the fun of exploring the unknown or less talked about), and I don’t go by pricing in deciding what to cover. I was super-impressed with the SHL 777’s line because of the clear quality, refinement and elegance I saw after Khol de Bahrein, and really wanted to get to know the rest of the fragrances.

      But when I got the box from Paris, and then was told some of the prices, I thought to myself, “Oh. Oh dear! Now what?” I mean, I feel like a broken record in talking about the Roja Dove rule, but what else is there to say? Fragrances like Diaghilev and the like are considered to be actual masterpieces, and should I impose my own financial perspective on something like that? None of it is as clear as say, an aromachemical bomb from a lesser company that is jacked up in price.

      My point is that I agree with you, don’t know what to do about it as a reviewer, but worry about imposing my own monetary perspective on high-quality, luxury fragrances which — clearly — a number of other people have no problems in buying. It may be aspirational pricing, but isn’t it aspirational just for people like you and I? I mean, I can’t afford $800 for a 50 ml bottle, and I have no problems saying that bluntly. I just can’t. Same with Diaghilev at $1000 for 100 ml (though I wouldn’t wear Diaghilev even if it cost $100).

      On a complete side note, I fully agree with you about the unfair flak that Neela Vermeire has received for her fragrances, and how they are definitely worth it, on the basis of the ingredient cost alone, never mind how good they are. (Long live Trayee and its Mysore!!)

      Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed your comment, RVB. Stop lurking and come out more often! That’s an order! 😉 🙂

  5. After I left my earlier comments I watched a documentary about wine. That is a more apt comparison than fine art, I believe. We don’t like to speak about class in America but I will. Perfume has been an accessible middle class commodity. Fine art is not, nor had been wine, at least in America. And now fine perfumers are courting the highest end of the market as the middle class disappears. I am sorry to introduce a purely economic point of view into the discussion, but there it is.

    I like RVB’s term “aspirational pricing.” Again, I can not fault anyone in this economy for that, especially if what they make is of quality.

    • You’re right, wine is a beautiful example, especially as both are items that vanish with consumption, unlike art which remains. And I agree with your economic commentary as well, regarding the targeting of a certain class of consumers. What I call the Russian Oligarch situation, in the case of some of the Roja Dove fragrances (like his ridiculous $4000+ one). lol

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  7. Thank you for the through reviews….the line is of high quality, though not original at times. I bought the pour femme and turned out to be similar( very similar) to Must de Cartier but with better longevity and projection. Can’t wait to see your take on the Oud. The only new fragrance I have seen from their line in the UAE was Qom Chilom; the other new ones you mention are still to arrive I hope shortly.

    • Taleb, nice to see you again. 🙂 And you’re quite welcome for the reviews. I’m glad someone is familiar with the line. lol. Your comment about SHL 777’s quality is exactly what I think, and why I wanted to explore more of the line after Khol de Bahrein. I was enormously impressed with the refinement of that perfume, and am even more impressed now after trying more of the line. None of them are aromachemical toxic bombs but, rather, really elegant and luxurious in feel.

      Thus far, I haven’t tried any that are unoriginal or boring, but I don’t sniff anything unless I’m ready to ready to write about it and test it. So, I was interested to see your comment on the 2022 Pour Femme, and what it smelled like to you. You know, I don’t think I’ve smelled Must de Cartier in… gosh, a decade? Maybe even 15 years. I have absolutely zero memory of it or how it smelled like, except that it was light and white (visually, in my mind, as an odor colour/synesthesia thing). I generally have a decent olfactory memory, so obviously Must de Cartier left no impression on me at all. 😀 I know I have no smell memory to draw upon when reviewing the Pour Homme, but I’ll keep your comment in mind. 🙂

      With regard to O Hira, it’s actually not new. It is one of the original 7 that were released in 2013. The reason why it seems so new to everyone — including those in the Middle East who previously got all the other SHL 777 fragrances — is that there was some sort of exclusivity contract relating specifically to O Hira. As best as I understand it, O Hira was subject to a one-year exclusivity deal with Harrods in London, and then Printemps for Europe. Only O Hira, out of the whole original 7.

      But, now, that period is up, and O Hira can be sold along with all the rest, including the new 2014 scents which seem to be 3 in total: Oud 777, Une Nuit à Doha, and Qom Chilom.

      What do you think of Qom Chilom?

      • Qom Chilom is kind of feminine to my nose…who knows maybe in due time I will change my mind, but since I have not sampled the heavy hitters like O hira and Oud then that will wait.

        • How was the latex? And, just out of curiosity, how was the sillage/weight, etc. ?

          I’m assuming, of course, that you tested it on your actual skin, right? The paper strips really don’t convey the true sense of a perfume, in my experience. Not at all.

          • Yes tested on my skin…can verge on being unisex but I have to smell it again…longevity was excellent but not sure about silage.

          • Ah, so interesting to hear about the sillage on you. I’m rather glad to know it wasn’t just me. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with the other ones in the line when they come to a store near you and you get to test them. Looking forward to hearing all about it.

  8. I was dancing around (in my mind) like a giddy schoolgirl as you described this lovely labdanum . I adore the note. Add in the notes of tobacco, cinnamon, leather, honey and castoreum and I was rolling on the floor (again, in my mind) with excitement and anticipation. Then you mentioned the price. No longer dancing. Bummer. But maybe I will get a sample when Luckyscent carries it just so I can enjoy this amber monster.

    • Heh, everyone seems to have come to a screeching halt at the price, almost like the Road Runner stopping suddenly in his tracks. 😀 Believe me, I rather did the same thing when I saw how much it was. I had heard O Hira was expensive from beforehand, but seeing the estimated US price was like being doused with ice water.

    • HA, loved the definitive statement. You know, I think sampling this one (note how I said *sampling*) is a definite must for an amber lover but, specifically, for those who adore labdanum. And I thought of you when writing about the Mitzah aspect, since I know how much you like that one, Ed.

  9. I just checked eBay, & O Hira is for sale there at
    the low price of $1040.00, Plus $30.00 Shipping & handling!!!!! I wonder how much Luckyscent will charge for 3 drops of the magic fluid?

    • I actually choked a little on my coffee the first time I read this. “The low price of $1040″ plus $30 shipping and handling!!

      Honestly, at this point, one simply has to laugh. There really isn’t much else to do. Laugh at the madness, or go mad.

  10. I have to say that even though it’s economically viable to sell perfumes at these prices, when they are this astronomical it does rather feel like an act of hostility to those of us who love perfume so much. I don’t think that’s true, as I hear both Roja Dove and Monsieur Humbert are lovely individuals. So, even though I proffered the wine analogy, I’m backing off it. Great wine is often a one off. A great year, never to be seen again, for instance. These scents are reproducible. So, the analogy is more akin to fine art prints, I think. And excuse me if I’m beating a dead horse (awful expression). I’ve had complications to last week’s dental work and am half out of my mind. Cheers!

    • It’s definitely not an act of hostility on the part of the perfumers. I think that is a projection of one’s own financial perceptions and, while I don’t know Roja Dove, I’ve gotten to know Stéphane Humbert Lucas a little — and he is the furthest thing from being either materialistic in nature or hostile to perfume lovers.

      He reminds me a LOT of Serge Lutens, actually. He is an intellectual through and through, is incredibly well-educated and well-read, if not brilliant, and is someone who seems to live almost purely in the world of philosophical abstractions regarding Beauty and Art. He is more of an artist by nature and thought. In fact, his background is in actual art as he has been a painter for over 20 years.

      So, I think feeling that it is an act of hostility may be a little unfair, but I have no doubt that it is due solely to your ongoing dental misery and pain. 🙂 Don’t worry about feeling frustrated, though, as I understand fully. And I’ll email you about your dental stuff. Hang in there, and I hope you’ve got some good meds to ease the pain!!

      • I couldn’t think of another word! I knew it wasn’t fitting. That is why I backed off and immediately thought of fine art prints. I am sorry I left the comment, as I can not say how much I DO respect all three of these men.

        But yes, it is frustrating to a fellow artist. That is the right word. I do indeed think of perfume as an art form, especially with these perfumers (I’m a huge Lutens fangirl, his recent releases notwithstanding) but it is one I can not enjoy by reading alone. At least with the visual arts, we have galleries, museums, and books with high quality reproductions (and the Web). The pleasure is not just vicarious. One does not have to own to enjoy. The same with good music.

        And so, I must remind myself that not everything is accessible. Your reviews paint such a marvelous picture, my dear Kafka! I blame you! 🙂 Please take as the highest praise!!

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  12. I feel I must add that I do think many people feel as if it is hostile on some level. That is part of what I was trying to express. I see it on the fragrance boards. People do not understand how hard it is to make a living as an artist, especially one who has integrity, and so, again, I applaud those who can command high prices for anything that supports high standards, high quality, and other ventures in their artistic and intellectual exploration.

  13. 580 € for 50 ml, or 11,6 € per ml, i.e. about 1 € for one spray : no, thanks ! The more niches there are, the less they sell and the more expensive (and sometimes uninteresting !) their products become !

    Prefer to buy 50 ml. Ambre Sultan (70 €) + 60 ml. Ambre 114 (85 €) together [I like both equally for different reasons ; I’m not fond of the Profumum Roma’s ambers] + 100 ml. of PoaL which is finally a kind of amber somewhere (!!!, 225 €) + 100 ml. of Musc Ravageur (which has also a light “ambery wibe”, 165 €). Which makes about 2 years of consumption !

    As 70 + 85 + 225 + 165 = 545 €, I will complete by 1 bottle of good red Burgundy wine (pommard, beaune 1er cru, …) (30 €) + a french baguette (1 €) + a piece of good fromage (4 €)

    545 + 30 + 2 + 4 = 580 €. Done !

    • Well, some of those ambers you mention are not similar at all, and the other fragrances are even further field, creating a yield that is a different beast entirely. No longer a comparison between different varieties of apples, but like comparing apples and chihuahuas. LOL. That said, I understand your overall point, as well as your feelings on the matter. 🙂

      • Yes. But I won’t even try a 580 € or 1000 $ 50 ml. perfume ! If I like, I will be frustrated ; if I dislike, I will be angry !

        • Well, I can certainly understand the feeling, especially the part about being frustrated if a really expensive fragrance is really appealing. 🙂

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  15. You hooked me at Incredible Hulk of Ambers and then reeled me in at vintage Opium. Then however, I felt like a fish out of water when I saw the price. I actually slumped over my desk in dismay. As you rightly point out though, people will pay whatever they think something is worth. I have a huge perfume collection and dread to think how much I have spent over the last 4 decades, but there’s no way I would spend this much on a single bottle no matter how much I liked it. I will probably love it and will no doubt appreciate all that it is – quality ingredients etc – but I couldn’t justify that price. Actually I wouldn’t even have to justify it – I have some money from an inheritance and could swing it, but it simply doesn’t sit right with me. I guess that’s my personal Roja Dove Rule (excellent expression!) coming into play. I will certainly get a sample though – I’m almost hoping I’ll hate it 😉

    • I had to grin at the image of you slumped over your desk in dismay. Heh. 😀 So funny and so totally representative of a lot of people’s reactions, I think.

      You know, for me personally, even if I could afford $800 on a single (and merely 50 ml) bottle of perfume, I wouldn’t be able to justify it either. Something about it would be hard to swallow. Maybe I would have to be a Russian oligarch to blithely and airily wave away these prices as mere drops in the bucket, but since I’m not, I can’t.

      That said, I really hope that people at least SAMPLE this one, as O Hira really is spectacular and absolutely worth sniffing, just to sniff. Masochistic, perhaps, but sometimes it’s nice to at least try.

  16. As I read, I was like “Oh, this sounds wonderful!” Then I continued reading, got further hot and bothered. Then I got to the pricing. Turned me into a cold fish. LOL. My God, it’s just *so* much money! Ah, to have a money tree!

    • Heh, the price seems to act like a very cold shower on a lot of people. And why would it not? It’s an *enormous* amount of money, indeed. If you ever find the magic seeds for that tree, do let me know. 🙂

  17. Thanks for the review, your analogy with Mitzah, Ambre Sultan and Sahara Noir helped me a lot to distinguish labdanum amber and quasi-amber.
    I too love your “Hulk of Ambers” expression, it could be a new category: the frantic and boisterous fragrances…
    (I am wearing Iris Silver Mist today and it feels like a Hulk of Iris, really GREEN).

    • You’re very welcome, Anka. I am so happy that the comparisons helped clarify the specific smell, and could be useful for the future. That is always one of my goals in writing. 🙂

      As for Iris Silver Mist, how interesting that it translates as green to you! I always think of icy silver and something totally futuristic! But hey, if the Incredible Hulk works for you, all the better! 🙂

  18. Sounds like an incredible dream, this dream difficult to tell a friend. Very complex!

    • It’s definitely a dream of a fragrance, Walter. With a price that is a little bit closer to a nightmare…. heh. 😉

  19. Oh Kafka I’ve yet to read the review and I’m already worried that you’ve found me another amber favorite. I daresay my entire perfume collection may slowly turn in to the world’s greatest collection of ambers. Ordering samples of a number from this line after I finish typing this. Will comment in full after reading the review.

    • Heh. I shall wait with bated breath to see how you react to one part of the review. I suspect your reaction may be much like everyone else’s (and mine) once they got to that bit. LOL. 😉 😀

  20. There is nothing quite so persuasive as a positive review – especially to a recent and eager convert! First time here, and thank you for revealing another interesting house. My perspective is tempered by distance: in New Zealand there is very limited local access to niche brands, through only a few dedicated shops. Yes, there is the internet, but I’ve had mixed results in some samples arriving smashed, and frankly, there is really nothing like going into a perfumery, talking with the staff, seeing and smelling the delights. So for the last two Decembers I’ve travelled first to Italy, then to France, with little black book of things to try. I first encountered the perilous expense of fragrance in a small shop in Vicenza (Nymphaie, I think) where I was offered Royal Crown for only 350€, down from 500 as the packaging was damaged. No, I didn’t go there, and I try very hard to keep within a particular budget, but as I said, your review has me adding another name to the list… You reminded me of one solution I wish more houses offered, when you discussed Oud 777: I did purchase Zafar as part of a coffret set (at Campo Marzio 70, in via Vittorio) which was significantly more affordable than a full bottle.
    Thanks again…

    • Welcome to the blog, Lee. I share your feelings about smaller Discovery sets, and I wish more houses offered them. In addition to Xerjoff, MDCI has an excellent one, Histoires de Parfums sometimes offers 14 ml decants of some of its fragrances, and Andy Tauer now offers a 3-pack set of smaller bottles too. (Unfortunately he doesn’t offer completely global shipping.) Houses like Patricia de Nicolai and Parfumerie Generale offer 30 ml or 1 oz sizes, but it’s still not quite the same as what you’re talking about.

      For your non-December months, have you ever tried ordering samples from Surrender to Chance in the U.S.? They have a flat fee for global shipping of about $12.95, and frequently have big sales of 15% or 20% off. Apart from that, each month, there are other discount codes as well. I have known some people in Australia and one person in NZ to order from them with success (and no mention of smashed samples). It’s a better way to test a perfume than risk a blind buy, especially at the larger bottle size. Of course, you mention mixed results in terms of prior experiences with ordering samples, so maybe Surrender to Chance was one of them.

      Why don’t you give a look at Histoires de Parfums minis and see if there is anything that may appeal to you, even if it is only something to jot down in your little black notebook of things to try later on:

      • Thanks so much for that information. I’ve tended to get samples direct from the houses: Nasomatto miniatures, for instance, arrived beautifully packaged; other houses much less so. I’ve not used Surrender… but I’m happy to see it endorsed here.
        But I will confess, I’m saving my euros right now: I’m heading back to Paris late November, for a full month. I appreciate this is a discussion at the end of an older thread, but I’d welcome any advise from you (or anyone) on the value of visiting the Versailles Osmothèque: local knowledge and experience is so valuable…

        • There is no question that Osmothèque is a MUST if you can manage it. I mean it. I didn’t manage to find the time on my last visits to Paris, but it’s something I’m dying to do and something that I believe any perfume lover will find invaluable. There’s nothing quite like it, and it’s become an archival guardian of the very best of perfumery. So, please, Lee, reserve, plan, and try to go if you can!

          Regarding sampling, I’ve been thinking about your situation. First, I don’t merely endorse Surrender to Chance, I love them and strongly recommend them. (No, not affiliated, and they don’t pay me anything. I happen to pay THEM a hell of a lot of money each month. lol.) I really rely on them for the blog and for obtaining the vast majority of my samples. They have always been very professional, very efficient, very fast, and work hard to make sure the customer is happy. (Which is more than what I can say about another site that I used a few times.) I’ve recommended STC to a number of people and have never heard any complaints. All my friends use STC as well.

          Apart from STC, though, I think there are some other options for you. As I was telling another reader in another thread, I really encourage you to look at some perfume groups that split fragrances into more affordable size and amounts. Whether on Facebook or on Basenotes, there are numerous options out there to make perfumes more affordable. I believe a chap on Basenotes is splitting a number of the SHL 777 line, particularly some of the older 2013 fragrances like Khol de Bahrein. (I don’t know if he is doing O Hira though.) You can buy something like a 10 ml size or even a 5 ml one, and it would be a way to have the perfume, even if it’s only a smaller amount. Almost all the groups offer international shipping, I believe, even if it costs a little more.

          If you’re on Facebook, there is Facebook Fragrance Friends and then, a much harder to join/recommendation-only group called International Fragrance Splits Association. That one is internationally based, with 2 of the leaders being in Asia, I believe, and they definitely ship all over.

          On Basenotes, there is a whole section of the board devoted to splitting perfumes into more affordable sizes. The best chap is someone called “Palm Beach” who covers a lot of international, expensive, or exclusive fragrances from all sorts of lines, including SHL 777, but also Amouage, MDCI, LM Parfums, and many, many more. “Palm Beach” is consistently praised as being very professional, thorough, honest and trust-worthy. There are other reputable splitters as well, all of whom look for the best or lowest price to ensure that you get the best deal per ml or bottle.

          Look into some of these options, Lee, and you will see your NZ location isn’t a handicap at all. 🙂

        • I am one of the friends who consistently uses Surrender to Chance because they are ABSOLUTELY fabulous (and I am not getting paid to say that either).

          And as if that is not enough, I am a PalmBeach splits junkie as he is the best (for me) on Basenotes. I’ve been getting some alarmingly large “samples” as I do like to keep perfume bottles.

          Facebook is evil so I’ll just turn a blind eye on what Kafka said about it 🙂

  21. I see I left the first reply to this review. Finally got a sample of this and I can say, once again, “Wow.” I’ve been wearing O Hira all day and it is gorgeous. Damned sexy indeed. This is my third day of sample the 777 line and so far not one of them has been anything but stellar.

    Too bad I can’t afford to wear such expensive scents. But, I must remind myself that there are plenty of luxury items I appreciate that I’ve always known were out of reach. A Bentley, for example. It is clearly a superior car to a Chevy. Do I pine for a Bentley? Not really.

    Fragrance has been marketed to the masses since the invention of the department store. I think this is the reason “we” feel angry when we can’t afford it. I have to remind myself that not being able to afford a luxury is a luxury I have because I am privileged enough to have a roof over my head and food on the table. Some do not have even that.

    • I’m so glad you found this one sexy and impressive as well, Jules. 🙂 Did your husband like it on you as well? As for the price, the issue of luxury, and how we’re all privileged/lucky at the end of the day, I think you put it well. Lovely and true.

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  28. Great review! It is a unique fragrance, so well blended…

    I smell some oud, a fruity/sweet Cambodian or Thai, maybe a mixture of some different types, as well as real ambergris. I’m just guessing, but if this is the case it explains the price.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it and found it to have depth as well as layers. Not everyone does. And most people just think it’s basic amber that isn’t worth its price. lol

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  32. Oh my goodness I love this. My favorite of the SHL line that I’ve sampled thus far: Black Gemstone, Oud 777, Taklamakan, Une Nuit a Doha, 2022 Homme, and Wish Come True. Why does it have to be so expensive?!! Lowest I’ve found is at Osswalds for $610. What a bummer, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

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